November 23 – A relief group is finishing up work five years after a tornado destroyed or damaged about 1,000 homes and killed one person in a central Illinois city.
The Washington Illinois Area Foundation has less than $10,000 of the roughly $1.6 million donated to help area residents, churches and governments rebuild after the tornado, which was among two dozen that struck Illinois on Nov. 17, 2013.
“I really feel good about it that we did the best with what we were given,” said foundation member Matt Moehle.
Other local relief groups organized recovery efforts on social media, such as Facebook pages called Washington IL Tornado Recovery, Washington Strong and Tornado Support: Standing Strong. Advocates said the online efforts helped residents problem solve together.
“It takes a thousand hands to meet a need,” said resident April Crotts, who helped families navigate receiving governmental and social service aid after the tornado.
Washington Mayor Gary Manier said the city is recovering well from the tornado.
“I never try to use the word ‘recovered,'” he said. “I always say we’re recovering, because emotionally I don’t think we’ll ever recover completely. The recovery will be ongoing.”
Washington, which is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) east of Peoria, has more than 16,500 residents today, up from about 15,100 residents in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The population growth — despite the devastation — is a tribute to residents’ resilience, Manier said.
“That was what I was worried about the most, from day one,” Manier said regarding a potential residential exodus. “I was really concerned about that. (But) I think people really wanted to be in Washington, and they wanted to stay. So we were very blessed.
Manier said the city hopes to move forward in more ways than just physically reconstructing what the tornado destroyed.
“I don’t want to be known for that Sunday on the 17th of November of 2013,” he said. “I want to be known for what happened on Nov. 18, 2013, when we went to work and helped each other to recover.”
Source: The Associated Press
Photo Credit: Washington IL Tornado Recovery Facebook Page