From groceries and winter coats, to volunteers and financial assistance, people from all over Illinois have come together to donate and help the victims of the central Illinois tornadoes that touched down on Nov. 17.
“We have had a huge outpouring from people financially,” Erin Miller, regional communications director at American Red Cross of central Illinois, said.
The E4 tornadoes hit several towns in Central Illinois including East Peoria and Pekin, but devastated Washington, a town just east of Peoria. The twister entered the south end of Washington and tore through neighborhoods leaving an estimated 20 percent of the town damaged.
Volunteers and organizations like Red Cross have been at the scene handing out supplies and meals since the cleanup began. Places like Five Points Washington community center have been used as shelters for aid and supplies.
“We were a central location for people to come for shelter,” Tracy Glover, shift leader at Five Points, said.
Donations poured in and were housed at Five Points. Victims of the tornadoes could come pick up any kind of supplies they needed. Supplies included bottled water, nonperishable food items and hygiene products. Five Points also opened its locker rooms for victims and first response workers who needed to shower.
Five Points has since closed as a supply shelter, but remains open to helping victims and the workers who have come from all over Illinois as they continue to clean through debris.
“People missed birthdays, anniversaries and Thanksgiving to be here,” Miller said.
Workers and first responders continued to work on Thursday and were given a Thanksgiving themed meal as they cleared debris and searched through what remains in the destroyed neighborhoods.
Residents of Washington and emergency response teams were initially focused on only the cleanup of debris.
“People were out looking in fields searching for any shred of their lives,” Miller added.
As time progresses and the cleanup eventually comes to a close, there will still be many residents in need of aid.
Red Cross plans to be available to these people during the recovery phase of the disaster.
“After this fades from headlines we will still be working … Recovery will go on for months,” Miller said.
Five Points still continues to take any kind of donation and will forward any donations that are no longer needed on to places that are still in need of donations.
As for now, even a simple “thank you” to the response teams will make a difference.
“People are tired and there is nothing glamorous about a Red Cross response,” Miller said.
“The main thing is, and it may seem small, but we just need appreciation for the workers. That means so much more than anything else at this point.”
Donations for tornado relief can be made at community division banks under the Tornado Relief Fund. Donated gift cards for victims can be mailed to 301 Walnut St., Washington, Ill. 61571.