NAPLATE, Ill. — Nancy Rick-Janis said she saw the news of the tornado on television at home in Downers Grove.

“My brother Bob called me, and as he’s calling me I’m telling him, ‘You need to get in the basement, because there’s a tornado headed your way.'”

Her brother, Bob Rick, is a volunteer fire man and public works employee in Naplate. Her other brother, Jim, is the mayor.

“For over 48 hours we had no idea if anyone was hurt, the damage, we couldn’t get any information,” Rick-Janis said. She said she came for a couple of days to help clean up debris.

“After seeing the devastation, I went home and said ‘What could I do to help comfort the residents here?'”

Rick-Janis belongs to a quilting group in Downers Grove, Faithful Circle Quilters, which does charity work. She looked to see if the group had any quilts to donate, hoping for 30. Instead, there were only 11, and they were baby quilts. So she sent out a message to the group on social media and reached out to other quilting guilds in that area.

“The response was incredible,” Rick-Janis said. “We ended up collecting 110 quilts.”

On April 30 at the village hall, the quilts were distributed to the people who needed them. People who were displaced were the first to receive them.

“Nobody walked out of here empty-handed,” said resident Sandy Panko. Panko, who is living in Utica while her home is being repaired from the storm, said she went home and put the quilt on her bed right away.

Mary Cupples had the first pick. At 99, she said she’s lived in Naplate since her family moved here when she was 3 years old. She had lived in her home since 1955, until the damage from the tornado forced her to move in with her daughter, Cindy, in Ottawa.

Many of the displaced residents had lived in their homes for decades and have deep roots in the town. Panko said her husband’s father built their home himself. Her own father was Jim Vittone, the first mayor of Naplate and the namesake of its main park. The current mayor, Jim Rick, is the son of Art Rick, the second mayor.

The quilt distribution provided another opportunity for residents to come together after the storm. Cheryl Mucci said she volunteered at the village hall every day for two weeks to help feed 100-200 workers and residents, all with meals donated from restaurants, churches and other organizations.

“It was a wonderful downpour,” Mucci said.

Bob Rick said there are about 250 homes in Naplate, and about 25 were severely or extremely damaged by the tornado.

Lori McConnaughhay has been staying in Utica since her house was damaged. She’s lived in Naplate for 27 years. She said she’s in a tough spot: the house isn’t condemned, but she doesn’t have enough insurance coverage to repair it. All of her belongings still in her home are coated in glass dust, she said, and to walk through stirs it up. She doesn’t want to take things out of the house because of the dust.

“We won’t recoup from this,” McConnaughhay said.

But she said the quilt she received helps.

“It tells you how much people are thinking about what you’re going through,” she said. “It’s just amazing what other people have done to help.” ___

Source: (LaSalle) News-Tribune, http://bit.ly/2qYttxc


Information from: News-Tribune, http://www.newstrib.com

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by the (LaSalle) News-Tribune.