As many were getting ready for bed or sleeping on a June night in 2021, a Naperville tornado reached its peak strength with 140 mph winds, classifying it as a rare EF3 twister.
At that strength, it ripped through Southeast Naperville, making 30 homes uninhabitable and causing major damage to many more. Glass, metal, and debris blanketed the area, becoming embedded into the ground in the high winds and rain.
A year and a half later, glass shards, metal fragments, and household items continue to rise to the surface when it rains. It isn’t safe for kids to play in their own yards. People avoid wearing sandals outside, and pets are confined to small areas.
Naperville Tornado Relief is a one-year environmental cleanup, restoration, and beautification initiative created BY neighbors FOR neighbors. Their priority is to make yards safe and usable.
As many people have returned to their homes, it’s time to tackle their yards. Efforts have been made to clean up the debris using teams of volunteers, rakes, painstakingly by hand, and with specialized equipment. Despite those efforts, some yards remain dangerous and unusable.
Why so much money?
First, insurance does not cover yard cleanup. Secondly, this type of environmental work requires professionals. Yards can be sieved, or the more affordable option calls for the top few inches of topsoil to be removed, disposed of properly, replaced with clean soil that’s graded to prevent flooding, and topped with grass seed. The group identified 70 homes that could qualify for yard replacement (the 30 uninhabitable homes and their direct neighbors). If additional funding is raised, it would go to landscape replacement and landscape beautification.
Who founded Naperville Tornado Relief?
Days after the tornado hit, neighbors Kristy Kennedy and Kelly Dougherty created a Facebook page to connect those who needed help with helpers. They organized volunteers, offered resources and information, and served on Naperville’s long-term recovery group. After learning there was no government aid given to victims of this disaster, and of the hardships their neighbors face as they continue to recover, they looked for an opportunity to offer meaningful aid.
How is fundraising being done?
The group partnered with the M.P. Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Naperville with 501c3 status. The foundation is acting as a fiscal agent for the initiative, to ensure best practices are followed and to allow the group to apply for grants. Because the effort is truly grassroots, fundraising costs are minimal. Funds will go directly to homeowners in the hardest hit area through an application process with safeguards to ensure the funding goes to the environmental cleanup, restoration, and landscaping. If fundraising does not cover the entire cleanup, money raised will still go directly to the environmental recovery of this area. An audit will complete the initiative, which will end next year.
Visit Naperville Tornado Relief online to learn how to get involved.
Selvei Rajkumar, Managing Director, M.P. Foundation
Kristy Kennedy, Cofounder, Naperville Tornado Relief
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