Somerset students help Chetek tornado victims


The victims of the tornado that hit the Chetek area earlier this spring still need help.

On June 5, 17 Somerset High School students and four staff members traveled to Chetek to offer their help.

The students and staff spent the day helping to clean up a mobile home park that had been severely damaged in the storm.

"It was unbelievable. None of us had seen the aftermath of a tornado," said Zac Eichten, one of the teachers who made the trip.

Anyone wanting to help in the cleanup can contact the Chetek Visitor Center, which is what the Somerset students did. They were told to wear long pants. The students spent the day at the Prairie Lake Estates mobile home park. Much of their time was spent collecting and stacking cinder blocks, which were used for the foundations for many of the mobile homes. Eichten estimated that students filled at least 20 pallets with cinder blocks in the four hours they volunteered.

While most of the Somerset students spent the last day of the school year working on projects around Somerset, these students selflessly worked to help people they'd never met before.

"Every one of our kids jumped in and helped. They knew they were doing something bigger than themselves," Eichten said.

Some students spent their time stacking debris and cleaning up the grounds. They made sure to keep any photos or other items that families might want returned to them. One of the Somerset students saw a mobile home resident struggling to mow his lawn. The student volunteered to complete the project for the exhausted resident.

The mobile home residents told the Somerset staff that the number of volunteers has dwindled considerably since the early interest in helping the storm victims.

"There's still a ton of work to be done up there," Eichten said.

A couple of the Somerset students even appeared on TV as a surprise benefit of the trip. Nathan Merriam and Kiley Casey were interviewed by WEAU, Channel 13 of Eau Claire, as was teacher Jen Sutton. The TV station was doing a story on the need for additional volunteers in Chetek.

Eichten said it was a quiet bus ride home from Chetek.

"Most of the kids fell asleep because they were dead tired. It was an eclectic group of students. They came together to do this. They were so happy they could help," Eichten said. "It was one of the days you were proud to be from Somerset."