Return to Washington: Plainfield Group Helps with Tornado Cleanup

The Nov. 17 storms killed seven people, injured dozens and destroyed hundreds of homes.

Members of the Plainfield contingency assess the damage in Washington, Illinois, during a Nov. 30 visit. Credit: Submitted photo
Members of the Plainfield contingency assess the damage in Washington, Illinois, during a Nov. 30 visit. Credit: Submitted photo
If you live in Plainfield, you know all too well the devastation a tornado can bring. So in the days after the killer EF-4 twister hit Washington, Illinois, a group of first responders from Plainfield headed to central Illinois to see how they could help.

Still reeling from the storm that leveled more than 1,000 homes, relief organizers were overwhelmed with donations of supplies and an outpouring of volunteers, and asked the Plainfield group to return in the weeks that followed.

Led by Plainfield Police Chief/Plainfield Emergency Management Agency Director John Konopek and Deputy Fire Chief Jon Stratton, area first responders made good on their promise this month, bringing a contingency of volunteers to help with ongoing cleanup efforts on Nov. 30.

Their mission was to help property owners who are still unable to get inside their destroyed homes.

"We ended up cleaning three properties completely," tearing down the remains of homes and covering damaged roofs with tarps to keep the weather out, Konopek said. The first responders also retrieved personal items — from photo albums to money — for residents who could not get back inside their homes.

Konopek said the group of 58 volunteers included Plainfield police and firefighters, Oswego fighters, Tinley police and fire, the Woodridge police chief and emergency responders from Will, Kendall, Grundy and DuPage counties.

"They said we had the largest contingency to date," Stratton noted.

Konopek said the group's efforts were aided by the generosity of donors including Plainfield School District 202 and First Student, who loaned the contingency a bus for the trip.

Beverage distributor Diageo donated money to purchase supplies needed for the trip. The company has also teamed with first responders in Plainfield to provide police and firefighters in Washington with equipment, Konopek said. 

"We're working with police and fire to see what the needs are in Washington," he said.

The Plainfield police and fire unions also offered assistance, along with the Joliet Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 58, which provided garbage bags and cleaning supplies for the trip, according to Konopek.

While Washington and other tornado-affected communities have been overwhelmed with donations of supplies, the need for volunteers continues.

"It's still a mess," Stratton said. "It's taking time to go through every dwelling."

While the temperatures was in the 50s during the contingency's Nov. 30 visit, Konopek said the ongoing cleanup efforts could be hampered by the recent winter weather.

"I can't imagine what it is like now that there's snow on the ground," he said.

Right now, donations of money and gift cards are especially needed in tornado-affected areas, Konopek said.

For information on where and how to make donations, or to arrange to volunteer, check out the Central Illinois Emergency Information Facebook page.


Vicky Polito December 11, 2013 at 09:39 PM
As Mayor Collins said today at the Coffee with the Mayor for December (and, it's not a quote, just a paraphrase) it says so much for the soul and character of Plainfield as a community to have our fire fighters and police officers show their amazing and generous souls and characters in heeding calls for help from neighbors all around the state. Thanks to them for being so good, so kind, and so hard-working. Thanks as well to all the people in town who donated so much to the effort--all the supplies that filled those trucks came from people with big hearts and it added up, big time. Also, thanks to Diageo for giving ten thousand dollars in aid to this effort (heard that detail at the coffee this morning, too). That was very neighborly and kind, too. I know one family down in Washington and they say that though these are hard days, they are very much cheered and given hope by so many people reaching out to help.
Joel Settecase December 12, 2013 at 11:56 AM
It really is great to see groups going down there to help out. I'm working on getting a few guys from Grace Pointe Plainfield to head down as well. Anyone have any advice on the best people to talk to down there? I have a contact, but I am always open to suggestions. Hit me up on here, and while you're at it, check out the new hub for student ministries in the area: www.theyouthroom.net.
Mayhem December 12, 2013 at 12:16 PM
What a fantastic gesture. I am very pleased to see that help is still being given to those that were affected. Too many times people are forgotten once the situation is no longer Breaking News. Kudos to all that are making a difference. Joel- You may want to speak with someone at Plainfields EMA. They could point you in the right direction.


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