April 23, 2014 - By Meg Peters
L-R: Bodi Johnson, Samuel Gibson and Rulon Gibson buried "Nuts" the squirrel in the largest hole they could find at the Evergreen Cemetery during the cleanup on Good Friday, where over 100 volunteers removed debri. Nuts died after a tree fell on him in the cemetery. (click for larger version)
Review Staff Writer
What do you get when a 65 mph wind storm topples nearly 2,500 trees damaging heaps of homes in a community like Lake Orion?
Neighbors helping neighbors.
Pastor Rick Seidal from Woodside Bible Church Lake Orion, Tim Chappell from New Beginnings Baptist Church and Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett spearheaded the force but more than 325 volunteers made the Orion storm cleanup event possible on Good Friday.
The cleanup was organized three days after a 60 to 70 mph straight line wind storm plowed through Lake Orion and Orion Township households and businesses leaving eight homes uninhabitable, 77 severely damaged, and hundreds of other Lake Orion and Orion Township houses with significant damages.
Barnett and Seidel created a video outlining their ideas for what was thought to be a small-scaled cleanup.
After posting it to Facebook on Tuesday, April 15, more than 27,900 people viewed the video.
The goal at first was to get 20 guys with chainsaws out helping people who needed the most assistance, but as the numbers of volunteer crews came in it was apparent the small volunteer project turned into a huge community mobilization.
"It was the most unbelievable thing I have ever been a part of," Barnett said.
"We've had families show up, scout troops show up, church groups, business people. So really what started out to be something for a couple dozen people exploded into this great event," Seidal said.
Chainsaws, rakes, skid steers and chippers helped to slowly eat away at the fallen timber for at least 50 households who signed up for the cleanup the day before, almost 20 more than originally anticipated.
Larry Mullins owner of Environmental Wood Solutions was a key player to the cleanup's success.
"I love this community and anything I can do to help it I'm willing to do," Mullins said. "We were thrilled to be able to donate equipment to help the effort and a place to drop off down trees."
Over 1,200 yards of material was dropped off at Mullin's full service waste wood recycling business on Giddings Road.
Christian Mills, owner of Total Repair Express Michigan at 118 Indianwood Rd., opened his doors to volunteers for their headquarters April 18 in order for volunteers to mobilize and find their sites.
Less close-by neighbors helped out, too.
The Independence Fire Department helped break down a 120-foot tree that fell in Victoria Durack's backyard on Franklin Wright Blvd.
"It is very sad, it was a beautiful cottonwood tree from the Civil War era. It's heartbreaking to have the big empty space now," Durack said. She was one of the lucky ones who didn't have any structural damage to her home. She was even luckier because the crew took care of her tree for free when it would have cost her between $3,700 to $4,500 to remove.
"That's what Lake Orion is all about, giving back. We are going to help the next crew. As soon as my neighbors found out about my house they sent their kids too. It's all neighbors helping neighbors," Durack said.
Boy Scout Troop 186 sent 30 scouts for the cause.
"It's amazing to see this many people over here," Troop 186 Scoutmaster Paul Leming said at Evergreen Cemetery. "I had no idea there would be this many people all at once."
Troop 186 along with a couple other troops and volunteers tag-teamed the Evergreen Cemetery, one of the hardest hit areas in Lake Orion.
Cheryl Parkinson and Brandt Malone from the Church of Jesus Christ at Latter Day Saints gathered every coordinated cleanup crews to every address site, with the help of previous township supervisor Joann Van Tassel.
"I just had a lady who called me to say how happy and impressed she was and to tell her crew how good they did at her house," Parkinson said. She signed up on Facebook like everybody else did, but had no idea what she was getting herself into.
"We were all kind of rookies before this and didn't know how it worked. There's a science to it all, but we received help from everybody to make it this successful," Parkinson said.
Alaina Campbell, director of the Orion Area Chamber of Commerce rallied local businesses that made sure that nobody went hungry. Buffalo Wild Wings, Culver's, Chicago Brothers, Crates Coffee House, G's Pizza, Hollywood Markets, Hungry Howie's Pizza, Jet's Pizza supplied piles of food.
Other key businesses donated their time and equipment, including API Consulting, Art Van Pure Sleep, Birmingham Sealcoat, Cyrowski Real Estate, Lake Orion Police Department, Paul's Carpet Shine, SOAR Learning, The Goddard School of Lake Orion, the United Methodist Church Lake Orion, and Home Depot donated over $1,000 worth of equipment, including a $500 gift certificate the Lion's Club donated too.
Total damages for the storm still have not been calculated, Orion Township Building Official Randy McClure said, because the numbers are still coming in.
Another Orion cleanup is planned for this weekend for any neighbors who still need assistance. Emailorioncleanup@gmail.com with your information to be included in the second round