News Local/State

Gifford Cleanup Effort Includes Multiple Agencies, High School Students


While the cleanup effort continues in tornado-ravaged community of Gifford, the Red Cross and United Way have seen more than 200 volunteers assist in that effort.  But Tuesday's work also included about 100 high school students, who were impacted one way or another by the storm.

The cleanup is bringing out more that the volunteer efforts of the Red Cross and United Way.

Most of the student population at nearby Armstrong Township High School was out of the classroom, as part of day of service for about 100 teens, or all but 30 of them. 

The idea started as a project for the schools' FFA Club, but expanded quickly.

The schools’ superintendent and at least one student lost homes in the storm.

Amy Schleef teaches business at Armstrong Township High School, and said everyone in the school knows someone affected.

"We’re focused on cleaning up the field, a lot of kids grown up on farms," she said.  "They know what it’s like to have stuff laying out.  It’s our way of contributing the way we know how.”

"We took two busloads out," said Spanish Teacher Katie Wright.  "So we actually had to go back and reload the bus more than once.  As soon as the kids heard about it, they called home to get more warm clothes so they could go out for the whole day."

Schleef says another community service day is planned for Wednesday, with even more students and staff. 

Work crews continue to clean up the more than 50 homes that were damaged or destroyed in Sunday’s storm.  Gordyville Auction House, just outside town, is used to register volunteers – and collect items like non-perishable food, water, and cleaning supplies.

Dean Otta is a Red Cross volunteer and disaster team captain based in Decatur.  He says volunteers are seeking the full range of jobs.

“They’re asking for people that can do heavy lifting, picking up shingles, and light debris," he said.  "There’s families that want help.  They’ll ask for 3 or 4, volunteers – we’ll sign 3 or 4 people, go the specific house – the families that they want.”

The Country Health Care and Rehab Nursing Home is one of the few locations in Gifford with electricity. 

Because the facility was spared from the storm Sunday, and never lost power, Administrator Chris Kasper said it’s functioned as a shelter, and another place for the Red Cross to store supplies.

"This facility was built by the community that has always supported us, now it's our turn to support them," he said.  "Thankfully we've been able to do that.  We want to provide them with plenty of bottled water and toiletries, and anything they need to just have some sense of normalcy."

The nursing home now even has functioning internet service, letting staff take care of medical records.

Meanwhile. federal assessments of tornado-damaged property in Illinois are to begin Thursday.
Gov. Pat Quinn's office says Federal Emergency Management Agency assessments are necessary so the state can request federal assistance.
Five teams will look at damage to homes and businesses in Champaign, Grundy, Massac, Pope, Tazewell and Will counties.

Sunday's tornadoes destroyed hundreds of homes and left six people dead in the state.