Tornado donations keep coming; long-term planning gets rolling

Tornado damage
A house had a wall torn off on Sheridan Ave. after a tornado ripped through Minneapolis, Minn. Sunday.
MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson

The General Mills Foundation has pledged $125,000 to tornado relief efforts in north Minneapolis. That's on top of about $700,000 collected so far by other philanthropic organizations.

The first Thursday of every month, Ellen Goldberg Luger of the General Mills Foundation leads a morning meeting at Farview Park in north Minneapolis, called the Hawthorne Huddle. The purpose is to bring members of community organizations and residents together to discuss ways to improve the neighborhood.

This meeting was the first since the tornado struck the area on May 22. Luger announced to the group a $100,000 donation from the General Mills Foundation, in addition to a previous $25,000 pledge. The foundation will use the money to award grants to local nonprofits in north Minneapolis over the next year.

Those attending the Huddle discussed how the north side will be rebuilt in the months and years to come. Louis King is the CEO of Summit Academy, a school that specializes in training people of color to work in the construction trades. King said it's important that the people who rebuild the neighborhoods also live in them.

"A core value of this effort is that the economic exchange that will occur because of the rebuilding will remain in this community," he said.

King said a list of local and minority contractors is included in informational flyers that will be delivered door to door this weekend.

The tornado slashed through a section of the city where about half the damaged houses are occupied by renters, according to city housing officials. The Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis is trying to help renters who have questions about their options. Deputy director Greg Marita said the group has produced a series of videos designed to answer specific questions.

"If your apartment is damaged, what do you do? Can you leave? Can you get your security deposit back? How much of your rent do you get back? Those kinds of things," he said.

People can borrow the videos or watch them on the Legal Aid Society website, he said. Representatives from Legal Aid will also be available at a housing resource fair which will be held at the north side Urban League next week.

The Hawthorne Huddle also focused on several other critical post-storm needs, such as mental health and employment counseling.

Mayor R.T. Rybak said north side residents already struggled with these issues before the tornado, making recovery efforts even more challenging.

But as he has been since the tornado struck nearly two weeks ago, Rybak sounded upbeat. The mayor heaped praise on the General Mills Foundation for creating the Hawthorne Huddle. He said the monthly gatherings have helped build a network of community groups that have worked together in the storm recovery effort.

"There's no other part of the country that I know of where a tornado could have come and there could have been a better coming together of community response," said Rybak. "Give yourselves a round of applause."

Rybak also thanked the thousands of volunteers who signed up to help clean the north side this weekend. All 2,000 volunteer spots are taken, but Rybak said other opportunities may be available in the future.

In the meantime, aid groups such as the American Red Cross are still collecting financial contributions, and local churches are accepting donations of food and other household items.