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'It's just that Iowa nature': volunteers continue to help Madison County with tornado recovery

According to the Madison County Emergency Management Agency, more than 1,000 people have come out to help.

WINTERSET, Iowa — The Jackson Building at the Madison County fairgrounds has become the new gathering place for volunteers looking to help with tornado repair efforts in Madison County. 

There's been a lot of progress clearing debris in the past week, but that's just the start of the long road to recovery.

Winterset residents are not walking that road by themselves, though. Speaking at a press conference Monday, the head of Madison County Emergency Management said more than 1,000 volunteers have shown up to help so far.

"As soon as we have this tornado come through, people really start to look out and say, 'Hey, what can we do? What can I do?'" said Diogenes Ayala, director of MCEMA.

Colton Willey was one of the volunteers who answered the call. 

Originally from Polk City, he came to the Jackson Building to help along with several members of his church. In spite of the destruction, he said the people he's been helping are holding strong.

"What's been really striking to me is just the attitude and posture of the people that have that had seen the devastation. They're still in high spirits. They were offering us food. they were extremely kind out of their poverty," Willey said.

Ayala estimated that Madison County suffered millions of dollars in tornado damage. While that can eventually be repaired, sometimes the impact is a bit harder to spot.

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"People are hurting. People are traumatized by what happened. So we will look at this physical side of getting debris cleaned up. We also have to start looking at the people that were affected, and make sure that they're okay," Ayala said.

But no matter how long the recovery takes, volunteers will be ready to extend a helping hand.

"You see someone in need, and it's just that Iowa nature. We want to help our neighbors is basically what it comes down to," Willey said.

There are still lots of ways to help with those recovery efforts. 

Monetary donations can go to the Madison County Disaster Relief Fund. Food, clothes and hygiene items can be dropped off at the Jackson Building or New Bridge Church. Finally, if you have access to chainsaws or heavy equipment, contact Madison County Emergency Management.

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