COAL CITY – An upward of 400 volunteers from across the state poured into Diamond Banquet Hall on Tuesday, and all of them were put to work.
“I have a truck, a tractor, a trailer and a chainsaw – where do you need me to go,” asked one volunteer as he walked through the banquet hall doors.
Elizabeth Scheidecker – who managed the volunteer sign-up sheet all day – said the majority of workers were sent out to collect debris from fields and roads.
“We have been identifying and categorizing the debris,” Scheidecker said. “All personal belongings are being put in white garbage bags and all regular debris is going in black bags.”
Scheidecker said the intent is to inventory all personal items found and try to reconnect items with their owners.
Volunteers have been working for the past three days, since Sunday’s storm struck, to clean up the damage.
John Griffin, owner of Griffin’s Roadside & Towing, said he has been working nearly nonstop since Sunday, towing away cars and debris free of charge.
“He’s been awesome,” said Bill Mitchell, owner of the Chrome Rack bar on Route 113.
Griffin helped Mitchell remove some of the wreckage of the Chrome Rack on Tuesday afternoon.
Seven current and former players from the Chicago Bears also volunteered a few hours of their time Tuesday by helping unload trucks of supplies being delivered to United Methodist Church in Coal City.
“You guys have no idea what kind of morale you’re going to bring, and that’s exactly what we need,” said Lori Cora, volunteer organizer at the church, to the players.
Current and former Bears players Robbie Gould, Anthony Adams, Blake Costanzo, Rashied Davis, Zach Bowman, Tom Zbikowski and Sherrick McManis helped unload at the church and clean the affected neighborhoods.
“We’re out here to lend a helping hand,” said Sherrick McManis, cornerback for the Bears.
McManis said he is especially saddened by the string of tornadoes that hit the state because he is from Peoria, near Washington.
“I’m praying for the these people. They will definitely have the Bears there to support them,” McManis said.
The players replaced their Bears headgear with Coal City Coalers hats that Coal City Mayor Neal Nelson purchased for them.
“You may be Chicago Bears, but everyone is a Coaler today,” Nelson said as he handed out the Coaler gear. “We’re all out here to support these communities.”
Christine Zgrabik hasn’t lived in the area for years but drove from Lockport to donate a car full of clothes and deliver supplies to the families in need.
“We had a garage sale in the summer and didn’t sell any of the winter stuff, so I loaded it up and brought it here,” Zgrabik said.
Zgrabik and other volunteers at the church collected supply lists from tornado victims in Diamond and then delivered the food, water and supplies they requested to their doorstep.
“Everybody we went to was so grateful,” Zgrabik said.
Andrea Brodinski of Coal City arrived at the church Sunday afternoon and began sorting through boxes of supplies.
“We started with just a few tables of things and then it just grew,” Brodinski said. “We’ve been working, doing anything we need to. This morning we were actually spreading peanut-butter on sandwiches – just whatever needs to be done.”