Rebuilding together: A volunteer center for Native American families

“We are so thankful to MDS for being here. The volunteers have so much experience. I just stand here and watch all the good work being done.” – Red Lake Tribal Council member Eugene Standing Cloud.

In July 2021, a tornado with large, embedded hail roared across Lower Red Lake, Minnesota, damaging the west sides and roofs of 78 Indigenous homes along the lake’s eastern shore. The Native government obtained a grant to re-roof the affected homes before winter arrived. Unfortunately, there was not enough money to fix the siding and windows. Therefore, the houses had solid roofs but plywood-covered broken windows and hail-pock-marked siding. The harsh weather and difficult living conditions caused hardship for many families.

In 2022, CDP and Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS) were invited to the Red Lake Nation in Minnesota to investigate the need for recovery from damage caused by the tornado. During their tour of the damaged areas and conversations with Oshkiimaajitahdah, they became aware of the importance of volunteers for the recovery efforts. Among the obstacles they encountered was a need for more volunteer housing.

In early 2023, CDP’s Midwest Early Recovery Fund awarded MDS a grant to build a volunteer accommodation center for the Red Lake Nation. This facility provides safe and comfortable housing for volunteers repairing storm-damaged homes. In addition to accommodating volunteers, the center will enable the Nation to respond to disasters promptly.

MDS can now house 25-30 volunteers per week to repair siding and windows on damaged homes. MDS volunteers expect to repair up to 36 tornado-damaged homes in their first year after completing the Volunteer Center remodel.

“We are grateful to see this volunteer center being used now for recovery and in the future as a gathering space/potential shelter for Oshki. We are grateful for the partnership of this grant and how it enabled us to serve others.” – Kevin King, MDS

CDP is proud to support efforts to accommodate volunteers and help repair tornado-damaged homes in Red Lake Nation.

Photo: MDS volunteers working on replacing storm and hail-damaged siding on homes. Photo credit: John Longhurst, Mennonite Disaster Service