Quad Cities’ businesses, volunteers, agencies add to tornado relief effort

Volunteers and businesses from the Quad Cities and across Illinois and Iowa are providing disaster relief to areas hit hard by the deadly Dec. 10 tornadoes that laid waste to large swathes of six states, including Illinois.

Among them is Holly Baker, communications manager for the American Red Cross of Illinois.  She reported on Twitter Monday, “It’s official. Bags are packed and I am heading to KY today to help with @RedCross response to #tornadoes. This is not how families want to spend their December, hoping to bring some comfort to them. #redcross.”

The American Red Cross of Illinois covers 21 counties in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri including parts of the Quad Cities region of Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties in Illinois and Scott and Muscatine counties in Iowa.

American Red Cross volunteers reported being on the ground roughly 24 hours after more than two dozen tornadoes struck throughout the country late Dec. 10 into the early morning hours of Dec. 11.

“Right now, the need is great,” said Steve Cunanan, regional executive of the Kentucky Red Cross. “I’ve seen firsthand that there has been so much devastation. People lost loved ones, their homes, everything is just gone for them. We’re moving as quickly as we can to get much needed disaster relief and blood products to area hospitals in these communities that are unrecognizable now.”

Quad Cities businesses and organizations, such as Moline-based Deere & Co., also are stepping up to boost disaster relief.

“The devastation from the tornadoes that hit the Midwest and our dealership, Hutson, Inc. in Mayfield, Kentucky, is tragic and shocking,” Jennifer Hartmann, John Deere’s public relations director, said in a statement Monday afternoon. “Our hearts are with all those impacted. John Deere has been in communications with Josh Waggener, president and CEO of Hutson, Inc., since the storm hit, offering our full support.”

Through its Enterprise Disaster Support Program, Deere is partnering with Huston to provide financial assistance to the community disaster relief response. “Despite their own losses, the Hutson team has stepped up by using equipment from its store to assist with the urgent rescue efforts at the candle factory located next door to the dealership,” Ms. Hartmann said in the statement.

More than 100 people were working at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory when it was flattened along with much of the rest of the town of 10,000 people. According to Reuters, work continues to rescue workers not yet accounted for and eight candle factory workers have been confirmed dead.

Deere also said that, through the John Deere Foundation, it has activated an employee giving effort to drive donations to the Western Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross.

“The John Deere Foundation will match employee donations dollar-for-dollar,” Ms. Hartman said. “The American Red Cross creates far-reaching benefits including disaster preparation, response, and recovery which is why John Deere, and the John Deere Foundation have supported them for over a century.”

Hy-Vee, with stores across the Quad Cities region, and its employees also are stepping up. For example, KCCI-Des Moines reported that on Monday morning nearly 40 Hy-Vee employee volunteers set off for Kentucky along with semis loaded with snacks and water, six disaster recovery pickup trucks and three sport utility vehicles.

Meanwhile, public and private relief agencies are urging people in areas unaffected by the storm — including in the Quad Cities region — to donate to support the affected communities.

There are a number of ways to help in the wake of the storm system that also toppled a massive wall and killed at least six people in an Edwardsville, Illinois-based Amazon fulfillment center. The cluster of tornadoes also smashed its way across Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee. But Kentucky was perhaps hardest hit.

Homes and buildings were destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were left without power, the Red Cross of Illinois reported Dec. 10. That agency; other relief organizations, including the Salvation Army; and local, state and federal government leaders are joining together to aid communities in all six states in the long recovery ahead.

Go Fund Me has launched a page that lists only verified smaller fundraising organizations to help donors who want to ensure their money goes directly to helping areas get back on their feet and  to support community relief efforts. 

Donors also are encouraged to send their support to such long-standing relief organizations as:

  • The Salvation Army: Donations to the disaster relief fund for the tornado victims can be made here or by calling 800-725-2769.
  • The Red Cross: Visit redcross.org, call 1-800 RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation, or donate online at redcross.org. To volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer. And to give blood or platelets, visit redcross.org or call 800-RED CROSS. 

Impact Life, the former Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center, reported that more than 1,000 donors in the Madison County, Illinois, area gave blood in a single day to help shore up a critical blood supply heavily impacted by the tragedy. But the need for more blood and blood products continues, and not just in storm-struck areas. This already is a critical time for blood supply across the country because fewer donors make the time to donate during the busy holiday season.

“When blood is needed for situations such as this, it is the selfless gifts of donors who gave blood in the days and weeks before the crisis that are available for patients in need,” said Amanda Hess, Impact Life’s vice president, donor relations and marketing. Impact Life is urging would-be donors to make an appointment to give blood today. 

Government efforts to aid the disaster-stricken region also continue. In Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker said agencies that have mobilized to assist the state’s hardest hit area in Madison County include the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, Illinois State Police, Illinois Department of Transportation and Illinois Department of Public Health.  

If you know of other Quad Cities’ regional tornado relief efforts, please share them with the QCBJ at [email protected].

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