United Methodist Retirement Communities Provide Temporary Homes for Dexter Tornado Families
Twelve families will reside at the Cedars of Dexter and Chelsea Retirement Community while repairs begin on homes.
"The day after the tornado hit, the Dexter High School football team came into my neighborhood to assist in clean-up efforts. That's the stuff communities are built on. Our younger generation stepped up to the plate and came through for their neighbors." ~ Tom Mildocher
Surveying the damage to his home in Dexter the morning after an F3 tornado touched down on March 15, resident Tom Mildocher remembers feeling a sense of helplessness.
"It was an undescribable feeling," he said. "You never think something like this can happen to you, and when it does, it just hits you like a rock."
The tornado rendered Mildocher's house virtually uninhabitable until repairs could be made to the home's interior.
"I wasn't sure where we were going to live," he said.
That's when Mildocher's prayers were answered in the form of the United Methodist Retirement Communities. Both the Cedars of Dexter and the Chelsea Retirement Community opened their doors to displaced families, offering temporary shelter and amenities to local families.
"Immediately after the storm hit, the executive staff convened a conference call. It wasn't a question of whether we were going to do something to help, it was more of a question, 'what can we provide for the residents?'" John Thorhauer, president and CEO of the company said.
Staff at both locations have been providing fully furnished rent free units with dishes, linens, towels and furniture for 12 families.
"We're not really asking for anything in exchange for the temporary residences," he said. "We're just here to help out. We've been in the community for 106 years, and this is just one way of giving back."
Thorhauer said families range in ages and incomes. To help residents settle into the homes, staff have also provided gift cards for groceries and access to other services in Wastenaw County.
"A lot of families are overwhelmed," he said. "I think people that are in a difficult situation are pleased that they've been able to settle in so quickly."
Mildocher said staying at the Cedars has allowed him to make the commute into town to begin repairing his home much more convenient.
"(The Cedars) has done a great job helping us out. You couldn't ask for a better group of people," he said. "The character of Dexter residents is just outstanding. This whole situation has shown me how people are willing to sacrafice their time just to provide for someone else. It has just been fantastic."
Mildocher admits that it's been hard to ask for help, but he said he's grateful to see so many people willing to chip in with lawn work, construction, providing food to volunteers and donating money.
"Usually I'm the one who is helping people out, but when the shoe is on the other foot, it's great to know my neighbors are there to support me," he said. "These people are here to help us and we should let them. There's no greater feeling of satisfaction in the world than when you have the opportunity to help someone else."
Thorhauer said there are two units available at the Chelsea Retirement Community for displaced families, with the possibility of more opening up in the near future. For information, call 734-475-1020.