Millbury resident Tim Miller has lost his house, and he wants to say thank you.
Not to the tornado which left him and his family homeless last weekend, but to the hundreds of people - most of whom he doesn't know - who have come to help pick up the pieces.
Thursday, on what remained of his back deck and next to a hole in the ground that was once his house, Mr. Miller perched a handwritten sign addressed to the volunteers. It read "Thank You Everyone."
"I have to," Mr. Miller said. "All these people come out and help you out, you've gotta thank them somehow."
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With volunteers and emergency crews continuing to pour into Wood, Fulton, and Ottawa counties Thursday, recovery and cleanup efforts were moving full-speed.
In Lake Township, site of some of the worst devastation, Police Chief Mark Hummer said he expected the bulk of the cleanup to be done by Saturday. After that, there will be small debris to pick up and rebuilding efforts will begin, he said.
Volunteers included schoolchildren, adults taking time off work, retirees, nonprofit groups, and businesspeople.
Among them, a dozen employees from the Shelly Co. in Findlay and children from a little league baseball team ferried hundreds of hamburgers, hotdogs, and refreshments to residents and other volunteers in the Lake Township area.
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Nine-year-old Ryan Kerr was one of the volunteers. He said he wanted to help "because I feel really bad about all the people losing their homes." And, he added, "it's fun." Recruitment of volunteers has been so successful that the United Way announced it would close two of its volunteer reception centers today. With so much of the general cleanup work done, there is only need for specialized volunteers, the agency said.
"The community's response has been absolutely tremendous," Bill Kitson, United Way of Greater Toledo president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. "In the past three days, we have deployed more than 1,600 volunteers to help with clean-up efforts. I'm truly at a loss for words."
The closed centers were at Grace United Methodist Church at 601 East Boundary St. in Perrysburg and at the Mainstreet Church at 705 North Main St. in Walbridge.
United Way officials said that if people still wish to volunteer and think their specialized skills can be used in restoration efforts, they should call 2-1-1 and give their personal information for reference.
General volunteers are needed in Ottawa and Fulton counties, however. In Fulton County, volunteers can go to Shiloh Christian Union Church, 2100 County Road 5, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. today while the location will change to the Swancreek Township Hall, 5565 County Road D for the weekend. Ottawa County has a volunteer reception center at Genoa High School.
Bill Walker, the emergency management director for Erie County who has been helping out in Ottawa County, said the cleanup there would likely continue into next week.
"There's still a lot of work to do," he said. "But it's way better than what it was."
Amid the cleanup efforts, emergency officials also worked to ensure the area is prepared for future storms. They tested sirens yesterday across Wood County and one siren in Lake Township failed to sound. The siren, outside the fire station on Ayers Road, was fixed within a few hours.
Police Chief Mark Hummer said the siren had electrical problems and may have been struck by lightning.
It was not known whether any other sirens failed to work during the testing that lasted about three minutes and started at noon.
The Lake Township site where the siren wasn't working is the closest location to an area of Millbury that was among the hardest hit in the township.
Lake Township fire Chief Todd Walters said the siren was tested a week ago and was working when the tornado hit on Saturday night. Other sirens that were activated Thursday in Lake Township were at the Municipal Building in Millbury, Walbridge behind the police department, and on East Broadway in news conference yesterday morning, the township's police and fire chiefs encouraged people to prepare for future storms by having a battery-operated radio, as well as food and water in a safe area of the house, on hand at all times.
According to the National Weather Service, there is a chance of showers and thunderstorms today and through the weekend, but severe weather conditions have not been predicted.
Also yesterday, Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jolene Molitoris toured the storm-ravaged areas and spoke with officials involved in the recovery efforts. She pledged continued help by ODOT crews in clearing roads and making them safe for emergency personnel and the public.
Ms. Molitoris said she was inspired to see the progress made by the various government agencies on the ground and by volunteers.
"Everybody is a team and there's a power in working together," Ms. Molitoris said. "It reminds us of what it means to be Ohioans."
In another sign that things are slowly recovering, the Lake Township Police Department moved to a former Ohio Highway Patrol substation on Lemoyne Road. Emergency dispatchers for the Lake Township Fire Department and EMS will continue to work out of the Northwood police dispatch center, however.
Meanwhile, others were recovering on a more personal level. After losing the house they had moved into just three weeks ago to the tornado, Melody Kisseberth and her fiancee, Steve Avers, said they are gradually coming to terms with their ordeal.
"I was devastated for days, but now I'm trying to see the bright side," Ms. Kisseberth said, as she picked up the debris along with dozens of volunteers. "I realized we need to be thankful because there's a lot of people worse off than us."
Contact Claudia Boyd-Barrett at: