Weather Forecast


Lending a helping hand: Community’s generosity eases burden for tornado victims

FNS Photo by Amy Dalrymple Dennis and Jennifer Socolovitch, right, displaced by the Watford City tornado, receive a free spaghetti dinner Thursday in the city, served by volunteers Mikki Schlosser and Justin Smith.

WATFORD CITY — Tornado victims Felicia and Owen Grooms walked into their free hotel room to find bags full of toys and clothes for their 2-year-old boy.

Dennis and Jennifer Socolovitch didn’t have enough money on a gift card to fully pay for new work boots and socks after Monday’s tornado, and the store gave them to Dennis for free.

Desiree Spencer went to a Watford City pharmacy to replace prescriptions she lost in the tornado, and the prescriptions were replaced for free with a $150 check inside.

Residents of the 15 campers destroyed by Monday night’s tornado south of Watford City had many stories Thursday about the generosity of local residents. Several agencies set up at the civic center to provide assistance to those affected by the storm and a free spaghetti dinner for the community.

“It’s been amazing,” said Jennifer Socolovitch, of Michigan.

But while the families have found places to stay temporarily, those choosing to stay in North Dakota are still looking for long-term housing.

“Most of them need a home by Sunday, some place to go,” said Meryle Vinje, who provided informal mental health counseling Thursday with Volk Human Services of Devils Lake.

Most of the residents did not have insurance on their campers, said Shirley Dykshoorn, state disaster response coordinator for Lutheran Social Services.

“It’s going to be pretty difficult when there’s a shortage of housing, shortage of available lots and such high prices,” Dykshoorn said.

Dennis and Jennifer Socolovitch, who lived in the RV park with their 21-year-old son and three dogs, were one of the only families who had insurance on their camper, the couple said.

Dennis said they had zero credit because they prefer to pay cash for everything, but a local bank worked with them to get them a loan so they could purchase a comparable used RV. Finding a place to put it will be a challenge, however, and they will need to get a few paychecks to afford a deposit and replace household items they lost.

Felicia and Owen Grooms are hoping donations will help them get a new trailer and replace the stuff they lost.

“We’re pretty much starting out all new,” said Felicia, 20, who works for a Watford City day care.

The 15-year-old girl who was critically injured in the tornado has been released from intensive care at Trinity Health in Minot and her condition was upgraded to “good,” Trinity spokeswoman Mary Muhlbradt said Thursday.

Eight other people were treated for injuries resulting from the tornado and released.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., toured the tornado damage Thursday, and Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley is expected to tour the area today.

How to Help

The McKenzie County Tornado Relief Fund has been set up at First International Bank and Trust, P.O. Box 1036, Watford City, ND 58854. Online donations will be accepted through the North Dakota Community Foundation, or