Lakes Region EMS emergency medical technician Michelle Anderson was amazed at the generosity of her fellow community members following the Nov. 17 tornadoes that devastated parts of the Midwest.
The tornado outbreak was the deadliest and most violent on record during November in Illinois. Seven people died in multiple states as a result of the storms, and some estimates put the cost to clean up the storm damage and rebuild at around $1 billion.
“In Washington, Ill., the tornadoes took out more than 1,400 homes,” Anderson said.
Anderson said she came up with the idea to donate anything she could gather to displaced people in Illinois after talking to a friend who had organized a similar effort after the tornadoes in Oklahoma in the spring.
Anderson, a Rush City resident who has been with Lakes Region for about six years, made a Facebook group to solicit donations, and she hoped she might be able to collect enough items to fill up the back of her GMC Yukon XL.
The response she got led to the donation of far more items than could fit in the back of her car.
Anderson said Joe Carlson, the owner of Grandpa Joe’s Marine in Harris, got the Stacy-Lent Fire Department involved, other people Anderson knew donated, and some donations even came from across the state.
Anderson also received cash for the victims of the storms.
Because the donations far exceeded the space Anderson had available in her car, Lakes Region donated its 6-by-12-foot trailer to Anderson, and she packed it to the brim with the goods, which included coats, hats, shoes, mittens, blankets, items for babies and toys for Christmas.
She and a friend left for Peoria, Ill., at 6:30 a.m. Dec. 3 and arrived in the city at 5 p.m. the same day.
There, the pastor of the church they were dropping the goods off at and his wife met Anderson and her friend at the church’s front door.
“I knew they would get (the donations) to the right place,” Anderson said.
Anderson stressed that she was simply the facilitator of this effort, and the real thanks go to all those who donated.
“This really wasn’t about me,” she said. “I obviously couldn’t have done all of this by myself.”