Friday, May 20 at 10:00 pm, the Otsego Community Foundation (OCF) launched the Tornado Response Fund, just hours after a tornado hit Gaylord. As of May 31, the fund has received over $511,000 from donors. The funds will be allocated to three areas of need, including immediate relief, short-term recovery and long-term rebuilding. The money will be used to help impacted community members with shelter, food, rent and future challenges. 

“100% of the donations will be used to assist those impacted by the recent tornado in Gaylord, and the OCF is not charging the fund an administrative fee,” said Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director. “Everyone is sharing their talent and expertise to get through this tough time, and managing charitable funds is what we do and how we can best help. We always say we connect people who care to the causes that matter and this is a prime example,”

The success of the fund is a collaborative effort with nearly 1,000 donors from 38 states, including individuals and businesses. Many businesses have offered to match donations to the fund, with the first match from Community Financial for $30,000, met in just four hours. The Oil and Gas Industry Friends of Otsego County, consisting of 11 different producers, came together to challenge the community to give $180,000, and that match was fulfilled Saturday. On Tuesday, May 31, Belle Tire is hosting a $10,000 match and Horizon Bank a $25,000 match. The Otsego Community Foundation anticipates additional match opportunities; if your business is interested in leading a match effort, please contact Amanda Sosa, Director of Donor Services, at

“Gifts ranging from $1.50 to $25,000 have been received and our phones have been ringing off the hook with calls from all over the state asking questions about the Tornado Response Fund. We are grateful for each and every donor,” said Bensinger.

The Otsego County United Way is vital for anyone in need of personal care items, household supplies, gas cards, and food. They are also the hub for volunteers and their coordination has assisted tremendously with clean up, donations, etc. To learn more about the Otsego County United Way, visit

“I can’t say enough about those organizations staffed by one to three people and supported by many volunteers who are boots on the ground, making sure essential needs are met,”

Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director

The Refuge, which provides emergency shelter, had a system set up within just a few hours of the tornado, connecting displaced victims to hotel accommodations. With housing inventory at a low, the OCF convened a group of human service organizations and hotels to discuss a plan for emergency shelter and 90-day shelter. Due to the housing shortage, the group is asking anyone with rentals or available rooms to complete this survey to help identify housing options. Grant funding from the Tornado Response Fund and the William and Linda Muzyl Fund of the Otsego Community Foundation will be used for sheltering at this time. To learn more about the Refuge visit

There are still many unknowns about how much financial help Otsego County will need to rebuild after the devastating tornado. The OCF staff has meetings scheduled this week with local officials to learn more, and the current goal of the Tornado Response Fund is to raise one million dollars. The Otsego Community Foundation has been in touch with organizations all across the state and country to utilize resources and gain knowledge on disaster philanthropy. Additionally, the OCF hosts the Nonprofit Exchange, a monthly meeting to share and collaborate. Starting last week, the group will meet weekly to discuss needs and possible solutions, and begin planning for future stages. Insight and sharing will be critical in this process.

“While disaster philanthropy is new to us, we have proven through our management of the COVID-19 Response Fund our ability to provide innovative and flexible solutions with timely responses in a crisis. Philanthropy has a unique and vital role to play in supporting – though not supplanting – state and federal government efforts.”

Dana Bensinger, OCF Executive Director

According to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, disaster recovery is the process of improving individual, family and community resiliency after a disaster. Recovery is not only about the restoration of structures, systems and services – although they are critical – successful recovery is also about addressing sources of inequitable and unjust outcomes, and individuals and families being able to rebound from their losses and sustain their physical, social, economic, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being.

To donate or learn more about community efforts and updates, visit the links below: