The effort to help the city of Portland after Monday’s tornado has brought together surrounding mid-Michigan communities in ways many thought weren’t possible.

“It’s overwhelming,” said Ken Klein, owner of Timber Tree Service. ” I’m sure all this help has already touched a lot of lives.”

Klein, 46 and a lifelong Portland resident, estimated Tuesday that his local business had cleared at least 40 trees since the tornado struck and prepared to tackle at least 300 more. Timber Tree Service was hired by the city to help, but is doing most of its residential work for free, Klein said.

Assistance of all kinds is needed in Portland, a 2.78-square-mile city northwest of Lansing, because numerous buildings, churches and some 70 homes were damaged. The tornado cut through the city at about 3 p.m. Monday.

A Grand Ledge Community Facebook page has helped mobilize volunteers. Groups were forming Tuesday for cleanup, clothing donations and daycare for children affected by the disaster.

Grand Ledge resident Patty Lance, owner of Nana-n-Paws pet daycare, offered a 50% discount to Portland residents with pets that need places to stay.

Recalling how traumatic Greater Lansing’s 2013 ice storm was, Lance said pets are often an afterthought when a tragedy occurs. She has already welcomed a few Portland area clients.

“There’s a lot of small town people, and it’s just like one big, huge family,” Lance said. “Many people have ties to Portland, so when your family needs help you try to help.”

Those who want to help Portland residents affected by the tornado are encouraged to contact Doug DeVries, Ionia County emergency management coordinator, at (616) 527-5619 or [email protected] Updates are being posted on the Ionia County Emergency Management Facebook page. Ionia County declared a state of emergency after the tornado hit.

Donations to help people affected by disasters like tornadoes, floods and other crises can be made to American Red Cross Disaster Relief at redcross.org or (800) RED-CROSS. People can also text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation. The West Michigan and mid-Michigan chapters of the Red Cross set up a shelter for residents Monday night at Portland Middle School and are expected to maintain operations there through Thursday.

Another way to help is by donating water and snacks to residents and volunteers who are cleaning up the community. Portland resident Heather Tillitson, 27, encourages those who want to contribute to call her at (517) 242-4013.

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Tillitson said she’s already received five 24-packs of water and several bags that have been distributed in areas that were hit the hardest. She’s distributing refreshments with her children, ages 2 and 7.

“To me, it’s all about making sure everybody is OK,” Tillitson said. “There’s so much work that needs to be done, and I want to make sure everybody can keep going.”

Much of the ongoing effort to lend a hand has been driven by the Portland Michigan Community Faecbook page’s 1,186 members.

Portland resident Kevin Day, 30, posted on the page his construction company is ready to put tarps on roofs and board up damaged windows — free of charge.

Day said he saw fire departments from Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Ledge, Ionia and Delta Township assist in the recovery. That type of teamwork inspired him join in. He described the volunteer effort to clean up Portland as like “watching a colony of ants.”

“You’d see a mess one minute, and then you’d blink and see yards cleaned up because there’s so many people involved,” Day said. “It pulls at the heartstrings because there’s just so much selflessness. Nobody is worried about what they’ll get out of this; they just want to give back.”

Contact Eric Lacy at (517) 377-1206 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @EricLacy.

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