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Waverly Helping Waverly: High school friends reunite after 35 years to help a town in Tennessee

Waverly Helping Waverly
Posted at 6:00 AM, Aug 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-27 06:00:52-04

WAVERLY, Mich. — Flooding in Waverly, Tennessee, has left the community devastated. The death toll is up to 20 according to the Waverly Department of Public Safety. Efforts are now shifting to cleanup. Thats left many wondering how they can help.

But folks from a different Waverly are pitching in.

“The pictures and the videos I mean every day all day on the news in Nashville, it’s devastation," said Mark Bortz, who lives just south of Nashville.

“The more you read about it the more you just think how devastating it is," said Jim Hicks, who lives in Massachusetts.

Both felt the urge to do something to help people in Waverly, Tennessee in part because they both went to Waverly High School.

“It was at that point I thought of, well, Waverly can help Waverly,” Hicks said.

They started a GoFundMe campaign for Waverly High School alumni and mid-Michigan.

“What’s your goal and I said, 'I have no idea, what do you think Mark?' and he said, ‘Well let’s just go for something big, let’s try $5,000,'" Hicks said.

In just under two days, they were over halfway to that goal.

“$3,000 in a couple of days is kind of amazing,” Hicks said.

They have the GoFundMe campaign set to end in a week, but they might keep it going.

“At this point I can’t even say where it would lead because you can’t measure people’s hearts,” Hicks said.

Bortz and Hicks didn't just come together because they were Waverly grads.

“Mark is much older than me," Hicks said. "He’s from the class of ‘76.”

“And you’re the class of ‘77 so respect your elders Jim,” Bortz said.

They were pretty close in school.

“We learned that Jim played guitar, and we just all kind of got together and started playing together and found out we were really good,” Bortz said.

After graduation their band broke up. Thirty-five years go by and Bortz and Hicks only spoke through periodic Facebook messages. Until they started this fundraiser.

“I tagged Mark because I figured we needed somebody on site and he immediately said ‘Sure, let’s do it,” Hicks said.

Their interview with FOX 47 News was the first time they'd heard each others voices in decades.

“It’s the first time I’ve heard his voice in, I don’t know what? 35-plus years,” Bortz said.

The promised they wouldn't go another 35 without doing so again.

“This is a great way for us to connect too and we will,” Hicks said.

Even though the circumstances that brought them together were unfortunate.

“They call it a natural disaster," Hicks said. "I mean, it comes out of no where and whether it’s an earthquake in Haiti or a flood in Tennessee, suddenly everybody’s life is precarious.”

They came together for Waverly Helping Waverly.

“The attention of people will move on, but these lives, people will still need help.”

Bortz said he will be going to Waverly, Tennessee to decide where exactly they will donate the money on Monday.

For now, the Go Fund Me is set to go until Monday.

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Asya Lawrence

1:07 PM, Jun 15, 2022

Your Neighborhood Reporter

Asya Lawrence

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