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Wessington Spring Mayor Melissa Mebius gives directions to community members at the Wessington Springs Fire House Friday morning after a Wednesday evening tornado hit the community. Mebius, a school teacher, is in her second month as mayor of Wessington Springs. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)

Wessington Springs relief fund applications due by Sept. 13

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Wessington Springs residents affected by the June 18 tornado have until Sept. 13 to submit applications for financial assistance from the Wessington Springs Relief Fund set up after the disaster.

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To date, $170,000 has been collected in the fund at American Bank & Trust, said Wessington Springs city finance officer Linda Willman. Only funds needed to meet emergency needs have been distributed so far, but Willman was unsure of exactly how much that amounted to.

The bigger job of dividing up the funds among tornado victims will fall to a city-formed committee known as the Relief Committee.

There will be a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at the Jerauld County Ag Building where city officials and others will answer questions from tornado victims and the public, Willman said.

The tornado destroyed 15 homes and seriously damaged 44.

City officials have not released the names of those on the Relief Committee, and Mayor Melissa Mebius said she would decline to do so unless those individuals identified themselves.

"I don't want them to be bombarded," Mebius said. "When it comes to financials, it becomes difficult."

Mebius, whose home was damaged by the tornado, said she did not appoint the members to the Relief Committee.

"We invited people to meetings, and those wanted to come came to the meetings and indicated which committee they would like to be on," she said.

In addition, Mebius said she has intentionally not participated in organizing post-tornado relief efforts because of her status as one of the victims.

"I asked to not know, no more than what the general public knows, because my house is also affected," Mebius said.

Similarly, any criteria that might have been established for the distribution of relief funds have not been announced.

Meanwhile, paper applications for financial assistance are available at city offices and through Lutheran Social Services case managers that are working with tornado victims, Willman said.

"We are just in the process of having all the individuals fill out applications," Willman said. "We're trying to find out the need."

The Relief Committee will review applications, but they will see only case numbers. None of the tornado victims will be identified by name through the process, Willman said.

"We won't know who the individuals are we're looking at. It's an anonymous-type thing," Willman said. "Everybody's thinking we're going to know their business, but it's strictly going to be a case number. That is how it's going to be decided."

Another city-formed committee is looking working to coordinate non-monetary relief, ranging from donated trees from nurseries to appliances and volunteer labor, Willman said.

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