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Kalamazoo County residents seek shelter with the Red Cross in the wake of the tornado

A small dog with white shaggy hair and deep black eyes stares towards the camera forlornly. It's sits outside in a black cage, protected from the sun by a white with several American Red Cross logos peppered across it. A pad across the bottom of the cage and a water bowl make things a bit more comfortable for the pup as well.
Michael Symonds
The American Red Cross teamed up with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Southwest Michigan to provide food and kennels for the pets of those seeking shelter at the church

Tuesday night’s tornados left some people in Kalamazoo County without a home. Some sought shelter with the American Red Cross at the Kalamazoo First Assembly of God church in Portage.

Angela Liedeke is one of 22 Kalamazoo County residents sheltering at the church. She lives at Pavilion Estates, a mobile home park in Pavilion Township. Many homes at the park were heavily damaged. Angela’s house was  completely lifted off the ground.      

“It went up, and then we were weightless, and then it smashed back down.”

Angela says she and her family were unharmed, but the house is uninhabitable. She quickly called the the American Red Cross of Michigan but was concerned she might need to leave their pets behind. But there was no reason to worry.

“They brought down some kennels, and they helped us all out. They brought down some food for the for the animals, and everybody has been so helpful.”

The Red Cross’ Regional CEO Mary Lynn Foster visited the church. She said she was taken aback not just by the tornado’s destruction, but also by the resilience of the community.

“It's unbelievable to think that they just lost their home. I talked to several residents that they're just thankful to be alive, and that the community has come out in force to support them.”

Four large men stand around American Red Cross Regional CEO Mary Lynn Foster and a volunteer. One of them is carrying a case of water. Mary Lynn is wearing bright blue suit jacket over a black shirt and black pants. The volunteer wears a red shirt and red American Red Cross vest, as well as blue jeans.
Michael Symonds
Mary Lynn Foster says they've seen an outpouring of support from local organizations and community members.

Many community members are assisting the shelter, with members of the Western Michigan University Bronco football team dropping off cases of water on Wednesday.

Meijer grocery stores is also donating food to tornado victims staying at the shelter.

Michael Symonds reports for WMUK through the Report for America national service program.

Updated: May 9, 2024 at 3:10 PM EDT
On Thursday, the Red Cross updated the figure from 22 to 26 people who stayed in the shelter overnight on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.
Report for America national service program corps member Michael Symonds joined WMUK’s staff in 2023. He covers the “rural meets metro” beat, reporting stories that link seemingly disparate parts of Southwest Michigan.