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Volunteers help clean-up family farmstead


NICOLETT, MN (May 4, 1998) -- The Blank brothers had not been able to agree on what to do

with their mother's home after she died three years ago, but the March 29th

tornado blew the decision right out of their hands.

"My husband looked at the farm that night and said, 'We could work all

summer and not get that cleaned up,'" Judy Blank recalled. The house was

left standing, though severely beaten; but all the farm buildings were

gone, including the hog barn.

United Methodist volunteers and a "whole lot of friends, families,

neighbors, relatives and strangers" made short work of the mess by helping

the family clean up the buildings that had been destroyed.

Judy's husband, Cliff, farms the family property with brothers Harlan and

Earl, all of whom live nearby -- about a mile south of the town of


Fortunately none of the homes of other family members were in the tornado's

path that Sunday afternoon. The wind that hit the family farm was actually

a singular, short-lived phenomenon, Judy explained.

"When we turned the radio on at 5 that morning, and they were saying

to watch for bad weather, we kept an eye on it all day," she said.

"In this area, you grow up that when you hear a storm is coming, it's a

ritual to go down to the basement. You don't expect much to happen,

though." This time was different.

Judy said the fact their homes were spared, no one was injured and so many

good people have come forward to help them afterward has strengthened her

faith. She believes it's the same for the other family members, as well.

"The church families have really been behind us. The moral support from

them (Oakwood United Methodist Church), as well as the help, have meant a

lot." She credits Pastor Lark Carlson Brown with getting the word out to

the parish.

After the first big sweep-up by local people, they were joined by other

United Methodist volunteers two weeks later. "They just chose that time,"

Judy said, indicating it was as though they didn't want to barge in during

the initial flurry of activity but chose to wait until they were really


"They walked the fields, probably 60 of them. They picked up and really

cleaned up." She said some from the group said they had come from Iowa;

others were from other parts of Minnesota, including members from the

United Methodist Church in North Mankato.

"They were wonderful to come when they did. Everyone was wonderful. So many

people brought food, I didn't have to cook for a couple of weeks.

"Having everyone to help made the clean-up fun. It was a sad

occasion, yes, but all those people working next to each other, young

and old alike, made it all so much easier."

Posted May 4, 1998

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