COAL CITY – After Sunday’s storm left a 12-mile path of destruction around her, Coal City resident Lori Cora felt like she needed to do something so she headed to her kitchen and started baking cookies.
A lot of cookies.
“I thought maybe we could put together care packages or something,” said Cora, education director at Methodist Church in Coal City. “But then I thought, why don’t we just open up the church for those in need?”
After talking with the Rev. Thomas Logsdon a few hours later, the Methodist Church opened it doors at 3 p.m. Sunday to those affected by a tornado that hit Coal City and Diamond about noon Sunday.
By Monday morning, Cora was on the phone with the president of Clorox, a representative from Frito Lay, the Northern Illinois Food Bank and several other businesses looking to donate trucks of food and supplies.
“I can’t even explain it,” Cora said, tears filling her eyes. “People have come from all over. It’s been overwhelming and amazing.”
The church put together more than 200 lunches for workers cleaning up debris and still is accepting donations.
“Right now, we will take anything and everything,” volunteer Lori Johnson said. “Furniture, food, cleaning supplies – everything.”
The Red Cross estimates that more than 400 volunteers signed up at both the Methodist Church and Coal City High School – where Red Cross was stationed Sunday – since the tornado struck.
The Girl Scouts Service Unit 773 set up a free day care within the church for families or workers who need a place to leave their children while they clean up debris.
“It’s not the safest environment for children to be in,” said Allison Giordano, leader of Girl Scout Troupe 227 of Coal City. “We came here at 10 this morning and will stay until we are needed.”
Giordano and co-leader Katie Moore run the day care and said the service unit is considering offering after-school daycare in the future for families who are still working on recovery.
“It’s been busy. At one point we had over 20 kids here,” Moore said.
Natalie Derewjanko of Lombard works for Bright Star Care in Wilmington and arrived at the church Monday morning to volunteer her services.
“I heard the church was organizing something, so I came to help,” Derewjanko said. “I work 24 hours on and 48 hours off, so I will head to work soon and then probably come right back here.”
Derewjanko is helping put together medical kits that will be sent out to those affected. She said diabetics are especially in need of medical supplies since testing blood sugar levels is crucial.
Derewjanko reminded those donating medicine to make sure everything is new, sealed and not expired. Baby food must also be new and sealed.
“So far we’ve had to throw out a lot of baby food because it was expired,” Derewjanko said.
All six of the church’s back rooms are overflowing with supplies and donation.
“If I ask for something, within 20 minutes, we’ll have hundreds of whatever it was,” Cora said.
The supplies are being delivered by volunteers to other volunteers who are working to clean up the damage caused by Sunday’s tornado. Hundreds of volunteers were at Diamond Estates on Monday morning cleaning up debris and helping families rebuild.
“There was a swarm of people moving from house to house,” Diamond Estates resident Joe Pape said. “I don’t know any of them, but they just showed up and helped.”
Sarah and Tom Sayers of Carbon Hill arrived at Diamond Estates early Monday morning to help their daughter and son-in-law clean up their home.
“When we drove in, I just started crying,” Sarah Sayers said. “We know these people. It’s just so devastating, but also so heartwarming to see people coming together. It’s such a strong community.”
Like several of the residents in Diamond Estates, Sayers said they enlisted help from nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and other family members to work on the house.
“We work on one house, and then we move on to the next house,” Sayers said.
Cora said the church will be open and accepting donations until further notice.
Volunteers are advised to go to the church to sign up. Cora said while they may not have work now, they will take names, numbers and assign people to different tasks as needed.
“What else am I going to do,” Derewjanko said. “Just sit at home on the couch? No way. These people need help.”