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The storm that hit Springfield and Brimfield, Mass. on June 1, 2011, left a trail of devastation.
One of the places heavily damaged was the Village Green Family Campground, where one person was killed, and 95 of the 97 trailers on the property were destroyed. Now, new trailers line the plots where piles of debris once stood.
It’s not only the trailers – there’s a brand new pavilion close to being done.
But in front, twisted metal and debris from inside the old pavilion that was destroyed, all waiting on insurance claims.
So the family behind the campground is rebuilding, but there’s still a lot to be done.
“There’s nothing here that’s not fixable, given time and enough money, we definitely can. These people love this place,” said Village Green Family Campground owner Les Twarowski.
It’s impossible not to look back and looking out over the campground in Brimfield, Mass., brings you there.
This was one year ago – the tornado tossed trailers and flung toys relentlessly across the landscape.
One woman was killed when she remained in her trailer, while several other people were injured.
For campground owners Les and Meg Twarowski and their daughter Katie, it’s also impossible not to look forward.
“Tornadoes are a blessing in disguise, if you can understand that. Because before a tornado, you live in a neighborhood, you don’t know anybody. You go through a traumatic experience together, and then all of a sudden, everybody just gets a little closer,” Les Twarowski said.
“We’re Village Brown right now so we’re going to get back to Village Green. But this is my future, I’ll see these trees grow and they’ll be back to where they were before,” manager Katie Twarowski said.
The repairs included 50 new trees, a new bathroom, a new pavilion for weddings and all new electrical work put underground.
They re-opened less than a year later on May 1.
The 25% that’s been fixed up is in the front and by the road, but along an orange fence and behind yellow tape, there’s a ways to go.
Like a trailer split in half by a 100-foot-tall oak.
In addition to the tranquility, Village Green’s owners say it’s always been about the people – now, more so than ever.
“With the help of family and friends and strangers, which are now friends,” Les Twarowski said.
Thirty of 97 seasonal campers have returned to start anew – all people the Twarowskis know well.
It’s been tough financially, and they also know the view from a year ago is simply not the same.
“We’re getting there but we’ve got a little bit more to go,” owner Meg Twarowski said.
We asked what people say to her on the phone when they call for reservations.
“Ohhh,” she said. “Or I saw that on your website and I still want to come,”
What’s also still standing – a curved, bent flag pole at the front of the campground – is where the town of Brimfield will gather to remember, when the tornado passed through one year before, at 5 p.m. Friday night.
When it comes to rebuilding Village Green Family Campground in Brimfield, Mass., which was smashed to pieces in the June 1 tornado, owners Lester and Margaret Twarowski have ambitious goals and have made some progress, but there are individual decisions and realities to face each day.
Moving seven trailers recently to their original sites, with water and electric hookups, was a major accomplishment, and there are plans to have about 55 trailer lots ready for occupancy before the snow flies, Springfield’s The Republican reported.
Those are major steps.
Village Green took a direct hit from the tornado, and 95 of the 97 campers and trailers there on June 1 were destroyed, along with some of the camp buildings, including the store and check-in office.
One camper, Virginia Darlow, was killed when her Winnebago motorhome was lifted up into the air and crashed on landing, and her boy friend, Richard Reim, was left with six broken vertebrae, a concussion, bruises and scrapes.
Almost all of the trees on what had been a wooded campground were knocked down.
But a few dozen campers, including Reim, stayed for most of the summer in an area of the campground at the northern edge, close to Route 20, and worked with other volunteers and the Twarowskis cleaning debris and starting the process of putting the campground back together.
“It has been an adventurous summer, but one that I don’t ever want to repeat. I am very grateful about the people who have helped us,” Margaret Twarowski said.
Most years the campground closes Oct. 15, but this year those who are still here will be allowed to stay until it is time to shut off the water to keep the lines from freezing.
“The people that are already here know what our plans are, and they are helping us reach them. We are running out of good weather. They know what we are in for,” Twarowski said.
The plan for the 2012 season is to open to the general public with about half the campground in use.
Twarowski said that would mean having about 55 lots in use, those between the pond and Route 20.
Water lines and electrical lines will have to be extended to those and hooked up, and some buildings will have to be demolished.
Twarowski said she is hoping to have a new camp store and check-in office built, but if that has to wait another year they will bring in a trailer for the store and office.
They are also hoping to have the walls up for a new pavilion, so there can be work on the inside during the winter.
“I tend to have ambitious goals,” Twarowski said.
But she is also aware that they can’t do everything at once.
“We are not going to concentrate on the back half of the campground,” she said. “That would be too much to expect.”
And the annual “Trick or Trunk” Halloween event they have run for 15 years, where children have gone from car trunk to car trunk in Halloween costumes, had to be canceled for this year.
The Twarowskis bought the campground in 1993, and Margaret Twarowski said what faces them now is like starting over again.
“They say that in business, if you can make it through the first five years, you are good to go,” she said. “We are doing it again.”
One of New England’s largest RV dealers has launched a nationwide fundraising effort to help Village Green Family Campground rebuild after a tornado destroyed the park June 1.
“We think it’s the right thing to do,” Danielle Hanoud, vice president of Marty’s USRV, Berkley, Mass., said of the park, which is located near the central Massachusetts town of Brimfield.
Marty’s USRV has pledged to contribute $1 to Village Green Family Campground on behalf of anyone who becomes a fan of their Facebook page during the month of July – up to a maximum of $1,000, according to a news release.
“We’re very pleased to see an RV dealership reaching out like this to help a campground in its time of need,” said Marcia Galvin, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners (MACO), which has also set up a relief fund to process donations from campground owners and others who want to help Village Green Family Campground rebuild.
Village Green Family Campground owners Meg and Les Twarowski have already begun rebuilding their family-owned campground and hope to open at least half of it by late October.
The tornado destroyed 95 of the 97 RVs that had been parked in the campground as well as several campground buildings, including its 3,000-square -foot pavilion, which had been a focal point for special activities and events throughout the camping season.
The camp store has also been damaged so severely that it may be condemned. The park is also covered with fallen trees and other debris, but with the help of volunteers, a cleanup effort is well underway.
Brimfield community members have also been donating food, bottled water, Gatorade, work gloves, rakes, shovels, brooms and other supplies.
As of late June, about 30% of the cleanup had been completed, Meg Twarowski said, adding that insurance adjusters are frequently coming to the park to assess the damage to privately owned RVs that were there when the tornado hit.
MACO has rallied its members to help the Twarowskis rebuild their park, and park operators from across the country are sending donations to help with the reconstruction effort, said Galvin, the association’s executive director.
She added that as of late June, MACO had received checks and pledges from about half of the association’s 75 Massachusetts members as well as checks from park operators, associations, and businesses in other states.
MACO also designated July 4th weekend as “Support Village Green Family Campground” Weekend! Participating parks pledged $1 of every site in their park to be donated to the relief fund to help rebuild Village Green.
If you would like to donate food, equipment or supplies to help with campground reconstruction effort, please contact Meg Twarowski at (413) 245-3504 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Campground operators can also send donations directly to Marcia Galvin of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners at MACO P.O. Box 47 Foxboro, MA 02035. All checks should be payable to Village Green Campground and “relief fund” printed in the memo.
The camping community in Massachusetts is reaching out to help Les and Meg Twarowski rebuild their Village Green Family Campground that was decimated by a tornado on June 1.
Located in Brimfield, Mass., east of Springfield, the campground suffered a direct hit that day: one camper was killed and 95 of the 97 RVs parked at the campground were destroyed. Many of the trees on the site were split in two or otherwise destroyed.
Recently, members of the Massachusetts Association of Campground Owners (MACO) board and some park owners visited the campground to show their concern and offer the Twarowskis their support to rebuild.
“DEVASTATING. That’s the most appropriate word I can use for Village Green Campground. Just about everything is gone but the strength and determination for Les and Meg Twarowski to rebuild,” Marcia Galvin, MACO executive director, said in an e-mail to MACO members and shared with Woodall’s Campground Management.
“Les and Meg are so upbeat about their park. It’s amazing with the damage and the unfortunate death of one of their campers that they can smile. They are so concerned about their campers and those whose insurance may not cover the damage and not be able to buy another camper. They have formed an extended family and want to see them be able to continue with the memories. Many of their seasonals have set up tent camps and are camping and helping with the cleanup. They have already ordered a new playground so the kids will have something to do.”
During their visit, the MACO members met “Ed,” the lawnmower. He gave the first dollar to the fundraiser to help rebuild the park.
He shared a brief story of the day of the storm.
“He was in his truck driving around the campground to warn campers about the storm when he was caught in it himself,” Galvin relayed. ”The hay wagon flew through the air and landed right on his truck. That saved his life. Ed is fine.”
The owners are looking for anyone that has an old towable trailer at their park that can be donated.
“What they desperately also need now are woodchippers,” Galvin said. “They have to be the kind that doesn’t ‘eat’ too fast. They have the manpower but only one chipper. With the devastation, they need many woodchippers.”
To donate this or other items, contact Meg (413)245-3504 or Galvin at (508) 294-4169 (cell).
Meanwhile, MACO has organized two fundraisers.
* The first is a poster campaign notifying campers in MACO parks who may wish to make a donation. Some parks have said they would match funds raised. This fundraiser will go on through Labor Day weekend.
* MACO has designated July 4th weekend as “Support Village Green Family Campground Weekend.” Participating MACO parks are pledging $1 per site to be donated to the relief fund to help rebuild Village Green Family Campground.
“In MACO, we have over 12,000 sites,” Galvin noted. “Just think of the impact we could do for a member of our MACO family.”
Some RV dealers and affiliated MACO members have already pledged money for the effort, she added.
“Meg and Les were so thrilled to hear that we would be doing this for them,” Galvin continued. “They are setting up an account at Country Bank and will allocate the funds through a committee. Les would really like to bring his campers ‘home’ and MACO is here to help.”
Galvin, who provided the storm damage photos that accompany this story, and her fellow MACO members also visited Quinebaug Cove Campground, a condo-type campground located about five miles from Village Green. It also was hit by the June 1 tornado and badly damaged, though not as severe at Village Green, Galvin said.
Quinebaug Cove is not a MACO member, but Galvin said MACO members showed their concern and she said they would help advertise a fundraiser to aid that campground.