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'Riding a wave of support': Volunteers help clean up Wadena after tornado

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WADENA, Minn. - Volunteer efforts are winding down here in the aftermath of the June 17 tornado thanks to an outpouring of support from around the region.

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Starting today, the volunteer center at the former Pamida store is no longer open.

However, there will be opportunities for organized groups to volunteer in the future as needs arise.

More than 3,100 volunteers registered through the center and completed about 300 work orders in Wadena and the surrounding area.

Volunteers came from all around Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin.

"We have been overwhelmed with the volume of people that have wanted to come and help," said Diane Thorson, Otter Tail County Public Health director, who worked with registering the volunteers.

Nearly 200 volunteers worked in Wadena on Wednesday, clearing debris from the cemetery, public swimming pool, fairgrounds and neighborhoods in the southwest part of town, which was hardest hit by the tornado.

Tracy Davis, a Wadena native who now lives in the Twin Cities, brought a busload of students from the Hubert H. Humphrey Job Corps Center in St. Paul to volunteer Wednesday.

"This is where I grew up, so it means a lot to me that things get done," said Davis, 28.

The group, which included 37 students from ages 16 to 24, sorted debris into piles and cleared tree debris from the cemetery.

It was the second time Davis had visited her hometown since the June 17 tornado.

"It's a lot better than before," Davis said of the progress.

Mayor Wayne Wolden said he can't even keep track of all the support Wadena residents have received.

Communities around Wadena have been doing fundraisers, from the car washes in Fergus Falls to a radio fundraiser in Detroit Lakes, Wolden said.

"We've been riding a wave of support," he said.

How to help

Only organized volunteer groups are being accepted in Wadena starting today. The group leader should call 211 from a landline or (800) 543-7709 from a cell phone to register.

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