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Local organizations providing funding to tornado victims

DIAMOND — As hundreds of families work to salvage what they can of their destroyed homes, four local organizations have stepped up to try and make it a little easier.

Operation St. Nick, the Community Foundation of Grundy County, We Care of Grundy County and United Way of Grundy County have designated $70,000 to help with immediate needs for victims of the EF2 tornado that touched down in Coal City and Diamond Sunday.

The tornado damaged about 220 residences in the area, more than 75 of which are considered to have major damage, Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said. The tornado's path went more than 12 miles, starting in Coal City and ending in Wilmington.

Now these affected families are trying to save what they can of their homes, as well as clean up the best they can.

"In the 30 years of St. Nick, we've never had an emergency situation and now we have had two in one year," said Joe Schmitz, president and founder of Operation St. Nick.

St. Nick, the Community Foundation and We Care also helped flood victims in April with mini-grants when Morris and surrounding areas flooded so badly some residents had to be rescued from their homes. At that time $55,000 in grants were given.

United Way is a new organization designating funds for this disaster.

Families were able to start applying today at the Coal City United Methodist Church were We Care and the Community Foundation are on hand. Applications will be available Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon at Diamond Banquet Hall and from noon to 3 p.m. back at the Methodist church.

Assistance will be given through gift cards or by organization members purchasing items with the families at local stores, Schmitz said. Applicants need to bring proof of residency and photos of the damage to their homes.

Families can also keep receipts of expenses they have already endured for the application and may be reimbursed through gift cards as well.

"We are trying to target those with the greatest impact first," said Missy Durkin, St. Nick board member. "As more funds come in, it may allow us to help more affected by the storm."

We Care's portion of the funds have to be used for low-income families toward rent or mortgage payments. The application process will determine what families can qualify for.

The goal of the organizations is to notify the families if they will receive assistance by the end of the week.

By about 2 p.m. the organizations had already received about 20 applications while at the church, said Denise Gaska, We Care Executive Director.

"The feeling from (people at the church looking for help) is they are so thankful because so much help is being offered," said Gaska from the Methodist church.

Money received as donations at the Mazon State Bank will be added to the tornado help fund and donations can also be sent to the Community Foundation of Grundy County. Checks should be made to the "Community Foundation of Grundy County" then put "disaster fund" in the memo line. They can be mailed or dropped off to 102 Liberty St., Morris, IL 60450.

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