April 23, 2014

Helping Illinois Tornado Victims Get Back to Normal

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Helping Illinois Tornado Victims Get Back to Normal

The Peoria Area Association of REALTORS® has been one of the most visible groups helping storm victims pick up the pieces of their shattered lives.

Victims of the devastating tornadoes that nearly flattened a swath of Central Illinois in November can count one group among their guardian angels: The Peoria Area Association of REALTORS®.

REALTOR® Magazine first reported that the association was jumping head first into recovery efforts in the immediate aftermath of the storms. PAAR members put on drives for goods, collected monetary donations, and drove supplies themselves into the hardest-hit neighborhoods. Since then, even after the media spotlight faded away, PAAR's efforts have grown larger.

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Brian Carroll, PAAR's technology coordinator, says that there are now about 17 members who are homeless because of the tornadoes, in addition to the thousands of residents who lost their houses. PAAR has joined forces with the REALTORS® Relief Foundation to collect money for cleanup and recovery. PAAR continues to send in teams of members to help home owners struggling to put their lives back together after the storms.

Carroll remembers a recent trip he made to a hard-hit neighborhood in Washington, Ill., with PAAR CEO Dallas Hancock. They were told that the No. 1 thing affected residents needed was storage tubs to put their salvaged belongings in.

"Dallas and I set out using money we had received as donations, and we basically bought every storage tub we could get our hands on," Carroll says. "We took several hundred over. When we got to the distribution point, we ran into some friends who told us that our best bet was to drive directly into the heavily affected neighborhoods and drop the tubs off, because access in and out was hampered and the need was immediate. We weren’t prepared for what we saw: total devastation — it looked like war zone. People sorting through these piles that used to be their homes, just utterly shell-shocked. We just started walking door-to-door with those tubs. The outpouring of gratitude when they saw us coming up to them was unbelievable. Many hugs, handshakes, and tears. We were sure to let them know that the REALTORS® were looking out for them."

PAAR also recently staffed, facilitated, and promoted a tornado relief event where displaced tornado victims could apply for aid coming in from the REALTORS® Relief Foundation as well as rental assistance. The event brought together PAAR staff, members, and the association's affiliates to set up several work stations where they could meet and greet victims and help them with their applications. At the event, more than 30 applications were processed for affected families, Carroll says.

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