Volunteers honored for cleaning up the storm in Platteville

The city of Platteville showed how quickly they can bounce back after tornadoes damaged neighborhoods, businesses and the University of Wisconsin Platteville.

Today they held their annual Party in the Park

Every year the celebration local volunteers that make a difference in the community, year-round. After the tornado damaged much of their south and some of their north side, the town has a lot more volunteers to thank.

Kathy Kopp, the Chamber of Commerce Executive Director says it's hard to get to everyone, and this party is not only for those who show up tonight, but for the volunteers that never even gave their names.

"People were, I was told, were driving down 151, down through the business corridor and saw what was going on. They pulled over, jumped out of their cars and started helping. So some of the business people had volunteers that stopped, they didn't even know who they were," said Kopp.

It wasn't only be the town of Platteville thanking volunteers. State representatives and senators extended a special thank you to all those who picked up the pieces.

Even with damage, debris, and a lot of clean up left, organizers thought the party was needed now more than ever.

"This was more of a reason -- reinforced it even more. I think the timing was right. The tornado, they're still doing clean up," said Kopp.

One of the volunteers at the park today was Paul Budden. Having been the streets superintendent for 17 years, the tornado damage struck him hard.

"Once we went up to the cemetery, I was virtually heartbroken seeing all the destruction," said Budden.

The storms had not only wreaked havoc on the cemetery, but on Budden as well.

"The headstones that were tipped over. The amount of trees that were just devastated..." remembered Budden.

There were 245 broken headstones and toppled graves. Many of them were hundreds of years old with no one left to pick up the pieces.

"I knew being the older part of the cemetery, there was no family members left to upright and correct that,"said Budden.

That's when Budden knew he had to do it. He called up some friends, and eight of them worked together to re-build the cemetery.

"It was gut-wrenching, and at first it was almost overwhelming. Cause there was such an amount of damage that I didn't really know where to start," said Budden.

250 hours, 230 headstones, 9 volunteers, and a month later, they only have 15 graves to go.

"The sandstone headstones we're trying to put back, and we're using a glue to try to put them back," explained Budden.

In a way, he's reconstructing the memory of Platteville. One woman thanked Budden for what he did. She mentioned many of the graves restored marked founders of Platteville.

Paul responded with, "it's not me."

Budden has repaired the cemetery with a humble heart, that is cemented and treasured in the community.

As the woman hugged and thanked him for his work, Budden responded with, "my pleasure."

After Budden and the group of volunteers repair and set all of the headstones, they want to put back together the stone fence surrounding the cemetery. It's beyond their skill set, so they'll be looking for the help of a professional or a stone mason.

All over town, the clean up is far from over, and there will be even more volunteers to thank.

During the process, the city has a relief fund already raised close to $20,000.

If you'd like to help out, the group "Building Platteville" is selling t shirts for the relief fund. They're $10 and all of the proceeds will go towards those affected by the damage. To order one or donate, call the city's chamber of commerce at 608-348-8888.

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