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Wilbraham Continues to Rebuild After Tornado, One Tree at a Time

WILBRAHAM, Mass. (WGGB) –Last June, Wilbraham was devastated by the tornado.

Just over one year later, the community had no idea that they would be replanting trees.

Sandy Swain is particularly happy to see things like this come into fruition. “I am very touched. My husband was Richard Swain, he died June 1st. he was the Tree Warden for many years, actively for the past 7 years, but we’ve been in town since 1961. He loved the town, he loved working with people like this man right here. It’s devastating what happened, but it’s wonderful how people have rallied around and neighbors have helped each other,” she shared.

The Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs granted Wilbraham $286,110 to further assist with cleaning up debris and stumps the tornado left behind.

The office’s secretary, Rick Sullivan, says the state thought it was important to let each town affected by the tornado designate how they should spend the money. “The programs were developed with the understanding that each community that was impacted was very differently from the others. So we let each community develop their own rebuild plan,” he said.

The Department of Conservation and Recreation awarded the town $50,000 to plant new trees. “The Wilbraham-Hampden Rotary Club says they’ll plant 16 new trees along this stretch of Echo Hill later this week. Some neighborhood folks say this marks a new beginning for Wilbraham. “Right now we’re just planting good size trees for them so they can visualize and expect those trees to grow large too and I know they’re appreciative because it makes the lot appreciate too,” chimed club member Walter Markett.

“It’s for the sake of our children. It’s the next generation that counts.  Right now with the winter setting in, to look at the trees losing their leaves, it’s already beginning to trigger some kind of sad memories for those who have suffered through the storm past those barren trees and look forward to the future,” Meri Blanchard smiled.

The DCR also gave a $5,000 grant to the Fire Department in recognition of all of their efforts.

West Springfield, Springfield, and Monson are also among the towns awarded grant money.

The grants come from the $4 million dollars Governor Deval Patrick promised to help the communities on the 1 year anniversary of the June tornado.


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