The EF-3 tornado that ravaged Marshalltown on July 19, 2018 changed Jake Rowley’s life in more ways than he could have imagined.
As a resident of the community, the storm touched her personally, but she also opened her mind to a world of possibilities as to how her specific skills and experience in logging and logging landscaping could help others affected by natural disasters in the future.
When shocking news of powerful tornadoes across Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas reached Rowley, he knew he had to do something. So he did what he does best, organizing a massive fundraiser at a few local drop-offs and preparing for a five-day trip to Mayfield, Ky., With the intention of leaving on Sunday morning. at 6 a.m.
“It sounds bad, but I was waiting for another tornado – another opportunity for a tornado – because the other two we were able to help with the floods, and I’m not quite a flood expert,” a- he declared. noted. “I’m really good with trees and I can do any tree removal… A tornado is really a unique situation where it’s a skill set that I certainly already have. ”
At least 80 people have died from the tornadoes so far, and the total is expected to increase as more bodies are discovered. On Friday, it was declared the deadliest tornado in Kentucky state history.
Rowley has been a proud Marshalltonian forever, and he still lives in the house he was brought back from the hospital to. He previously ran a landscaping and lawn care company, Mid-Iowa Lawn Care, until 2017 when he focused on tree felling and started his new business, Junk. Relief.
Inspired by the experience the Marshalltown relief effort gave her – and in search of happiness after the death of her late father – Rowley traveled to eastern Nebraska in 2019 after historic flooding hit left behind what Governor Pete Ricketts called “the greatest damage our state has ever suffered.” never lived. As a volunteer, he felt he was able to test his skills without worrying too much about making mistakes.
“That’s really what set it in motion, actually, and what gave me the ambition or desire to figure out how we could do it again,” Rowley said. “I was sitting in the truck – honestly, even as a grown man screaming my eyes – and on my phone comes this Nebraska flood. ”
With the support of local officials like Mayor Joel Greer and then Sheriff Steve Hoffman, Rowley eventually collected between $ 75,000 and $ 100,000 in goods and transported them to Nebraska, and he spent an entire month in the affected area. Soon after, he met his girlfriend, Mercedes Walker, and they have since welcomed a son into the world three days after the 2020 derecho.
A soul sister
Like Rowley, life on Sulc Lake was undeniably shaped by the 2018 tornado to the point that the Nebraska native moved his family and business, Exterior + Home Remodeling, to Marshalltown in the aftermath of its aftermath. So it’s no surprise that the two became quick friends – although they joke that they still don’t remember exactly how they met, they quickly discussed where to buy coins. specific for skid steer loaders – and Sulc, along with Walker, joins Rowley on his trip to Mayfield.
“This one is a little new to us because we’ve always wanted to be able to be a non-profit organization and really help fully and try to stay away from the commercial part,” Sulc said. “So when (Rowley) offered the opportunity with his expertise, it gives us that extra chance to go do something outside of business.”
This time around, Rowley and his company have learned a few lessons from their previous experiences and are heading to Bluegrass State with a more professional operation: dumpsters, dump trailers, chainsaws, shovels and rakes. Sulc has an RV, a huge plus considering Rowley has slept in tents on 40 degree nights in the past.
While he feels like he has a better understanding of how to help now that he’s gained some experience, Rowley still lives by one of the cardinal rules of disaster and disaster relief: Always expect unexpected.
“Every time we go to one I think I’ve got it all figured out, and then there’s always something that changes. There’s always something different about each one,” he said. “But I think with a storm of this magnitude there’s really no way we won’t have enough to do or enough to distribute once we get there.”
In the long term, Rowley hopes to start a nonprofit disaster relief organization – he cites the United Cajun Navy and its president, Todd Terrell, as main inspirations – make it a full-time job and earn enough income to raise his family. Walker, who sets out on her first trip, can’t help but think of her own loved ones when she sees images of devastation like those from Kentucky.
“It makes me very emotional to see things like this. I don’t know why, but it is. I think it’s mainly because of the fact that I have kids too, and it could happen here, ”she said.
Donations can be left at Exterior + Home Remodeling (on Iowa Avenue across from Mitchell Funeral Home) or Thrifty Buzzarr in the Marshalltown Mall until 5 p.m. Saturday.