HARTFORD, Mich. (WOOD) — When Monday’s storms knocked down trees and power lines, they also damaged a significant building in Van Buren County. Volunteers at the Historical Society and Museum are asking for your help.

Following the storms, president Sandy Merchant heard reports of damage at the museum and dashed over to the property.

“I couldn’t get in because the trees were all down and all over the driveways,” she said.

Merchant then started seeing holes in the building and some of its bricks and roofing and glass laying around it.

“I was totally speechless, and I’ll admit it — I cried. We have put a whole lot of work into this,” Merchant said.

The building that houses the museum dates to 1884 as the county’s poor house at the time.

“You came here if you had no money or family,” Merchant explained. “You gave anything of value to the county and you were allowed to live here to the end of your life, and they took care of your burial. If you were mentally or physically disabled, you could live here.”

Merchant says Van Buren County, which oversees the property and building, has been sending in preservationists to try stabilizing the structure. It is expected to receive a final estimate on the damage by next week.

As for the artifacts and exhibits, which are owned by the historical society, Merchant says it was a miracle they ended up not being damaged from the storm.

“I was so thankful,” Merchant reflected. “I mean, I… took a deep breath and thought no one was hurt. A lot was salvaged.”

Its sentimental value is why the Historical Society of Michigan launched a GoFundMe campaign to help clean up and rebuild.

“When you see damage to something that really is a part of our history, it just breaks your heart,” said Bob Myers, who serves as the director of history programming. “A modern office building — that’s, of course, very difficult, but that can be replaced. This is a nearly century-and-a-half-old… wonderful historic building, artifacts that are irreplaceable. They tell the story of the community.”

Merchant says the state society, Van Buren County and neighbors showing their support are truly a bright light in this dark chapter.

“That’s what I like about this area. If there is something that goes wrong, you would be surprised at the people who step forward and say, ‘I can help,'” Merchant said.

The GoFundMe campaign has a goal of $10,000. Cash or checks can also be sent to the historical society’s P.O. address at P.O. Box 452, Hartford, MI 40057.

With cleanup expected to continue throughout the summer, Merchant says historical society lectures will temporarily relocate to Lawrence Township Hall.