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Coal City, Diamond students give needed push in tornado relief

Published: Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Nov. 25, 2013 10:28 p.m. CDT
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(Jessica Bourque — jbourque@sha)
Days after an EF2 tornado ripped through the Coal City and Diamond area Sunday volunteers still work daily to clean up debris throughout the villages.
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(Submitted photo)
Coal City High School choir students on Wednesday took time to cheer up residents who had homes damaged by Sunday's tornado by singing in front of their homes.

DIAMOND – After all of the devastation Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc has seen in her village since Sunday’s tornado, the first time she cried was Wednesday.

It was when Coal City High School’s Madrigal choir came off a school bus in front of a home badly damaged by the tornado to sing in hopes of cheering up those who had lost so much.

“They were all smiling and I started crying. It was my first time, I could not help it,” Kernc said Friday.

On Thursday the school’s “Footnotes” choir also took a trip to sing to residents.

Emotions have been high in the Diamond and Coal City area since an EF2 tornado ripped through the area Sunday, with winds above 120 mph that damaged about 220 residences and multiple businesses, and left four injured.

Coal City School District Superintendent Kent Bugg said the mayor asked him to find a way to bring a smile to the victims’ faces and the Coal City students stepped up to the task.

“It was very emotional and very much appreciated by the citizens,” Bugg said in an email about the choirs’ performances.

In addition to the singers, about 40 high school students and another 40 middle school students assisted with clean up efforts Wednesday and Thursday in Diamond Estates subdivision, one of the worst-hit areas. Bugg said the village also requested the high school students help move food and supplies Saturday from the Coal City United Methodist Church to storage at Coal City Village Hall.

Students helped clean up the parkways in Diamond Estates, as well as helped at the church throughout the week.

Sophomore John Halloran said he volunteered in order to give back to his community.

“I’m friends with a bunch of people out there and they’ve done a lot for me,” Halloran said.

While out there raking debris out of people’s lawns and off the street, senior Chase Mincey said students encountered victims and volunteers extending their appreciation everywhere they went.

“A lot of people were grateful for what we were doing, whether it was to their yard or from a person from a different town seeing what were doing,” he said.

Coal City Middle School’s Green Club, W.E.B. Leaders and student council members also helped in Diamond Estates. Sue Frederiksen, seventh-grade science teacher, said the efforts were all the students’ idea.

“They kept saying, ‘What can we do? Can we go out there and help?’ It was definitely the kids who worked to do this,” she said.

Seventh-grader Jonathan Buckner said helping was the right thing to do for the community.

“I have friends who went through it, it was devastating. It makes a difference when the whole community is helping out,” he said.

Kernc said the community still is going strong as they work together to piece their homes and village back together.

A list of resources has been posted on the village’s website, diamond.illinois.gov, from counseling to storage needs. As residents work toward rebuilding, Kernc reminds them to make sure they check that contractors are registered with the village.

She said although police have not had to be involved yet, scammers have made their way into the village.

“It’s adding insult to injury,” she said. “If they are a tornado victim, the last thing they need is someone trying to take advantage of them.”

A Chicago attorney will be offering free legal advice at the Diamond Banquet Hall on Saturday.

Kernc said a couple of Diamond’s small businesses that were destroyed are in real financial need and are in fear of not being able to re-open. Anyone interested assisting these businesses can contact Kernc at Village Hall, 815-634-8149.

Mini-grant applications still are available for those in need of financial assistance for anything from insurance deductibles to clothing needs. Applications are available at Diamond Village Hall.

The mini-grants are provided through funds from Operation St. Nick, the Community Foundation of Grundy County, We Care of Grundy County and United Way of Grundy County. The funds available are up to about $120,000 as of Friday because of additional donations from an anonymous donor, Kendall-Grundy Community Action, Standard Bank and from the tornado fund started at Mazon State Bank, said Joe Schmitz, founder and president of St. Nick.

Applications for the grants will be taken through Dec. 6. Originally the grants were going to be through gift cards, but now the organizations will give checks. More than 93 applications have been turned in so far.

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