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Helping Illinois Storm Victims: It Takes a Village

November 21, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - It has been a tough week for many Illinois families, in the wake of one of the worst storm systems to hit the state in decades. Efforts are already under way to help those who lost everything. AARP Illinois is raising money for victims and will send a team of volunteers on Friday to help with cleanup efforts in Washington County.

Ryan Gruenenfelder, manager of advocacy and outreach with AARP Illinois, said they have teamed up with other organizations, including the Red Cross and Salvation Army, to help rebuild areas hit the hardest.

"Several other communities were hit by hard tornadoes, too, and they're all working on cleanups as well," Gruenenfelder said. "The governor has declared disaster areas in 13 different counties. So, there is a village that's working together in all those counties, trying to rebuild."

Issues like mobility problems or dementia are special complications for seniors and their caregivers who may have been displaced by the storm, Gruenenfelder added.

"A lot of them can't be taken care of in a group-shelter-type home, so they need to find alternative means of care, shelter and ways to get them food, get them their medications, get more clothing on their back and keep them comfortable in this time of crisis," he said.

The storm struck Sunday, and cleanup efforts began first thing Monday. Gruenenfelder said the winter weather in this week's forecast makes it critical to restore people's lives as soon as possible.

"The weather is getting colder and colder, and people are finding it harder and harder to not have a place to live. And that's very important. They can find places to stay overnight now, but also they must figure out a more permanent solution, so they're not left out on the cold when we really do hit the difficult weather of winter," he said.

AARP Illinois would like to hear from those who want to donate either time or money to help storm victims, he added. Monetary donations will be used for shelter, food and the supplies needed to rebuild communities.

Information has been posted on the AARP Illinois Facebook and Twitter pages, and at, about the recovery resources available.

Mary Kuhlman/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - IL