Sunday’s tornado in Washington, Illinois, left more than 1,000 people homeless. For Brenda Fraley Warren and her husband, Kris, it was a double whammy.
The couple and their two sons were renting a townhome in Washington, but had recently closed on a house just seven blocks away. Both homes were destroyed in the storm.
But an act of kindness by a Plainfield South graduate has the family counting their blessings.
“I’m in Ohio,” she said. “I said, ‘What can I do from here?’” Less than 20 minutes after launching the pages, she said, donations began pouring in. But on Tuesday, the Facebook page netted something even more special, according to Miller.
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Marc Butler, a Joliet resident and PSHS graduate, posted a note to Miller, saying he found something that belonged to her sister.
Butler was working in Minooka — two-hour drive at least from Washington — when he found a savings bond in the grass.
“I thought that was both amazing and very sad,” Butler wrote on Facebook. “Knowing that the only way a personal item of somebodies like this could make it out here was by a home being hit. I would really like to return it to her.”
Butler said he was cutting grass in Minooka when something caught his eye.
"It looked like a $50 bill," he said, but upon closer inspection, he realized it was a savings bond.
"I saw the address was Washington, Illinois," Butler said. "For that to make it that far, it had to come from a home that got hit."
The savings bond was in the name of Warren's son, so Butler tried searching for him online. Not getting any results, he noticed Brenda Warren's name on the bottom. After another search, he found the Facebook page Miller had established.
Butler posted a photo of the saving bond to the page, and in less than an hour, he had received a reply, plus a return address for the family.
"It was sad, but it was also amazing," he said of learning that the family lost their home in the storm, but had emerged unscathed.
Butler's act of kindness moved Miller to tears on Wednesday.
“It was like, ‘oh my gosh, people really do care,’” she said. “That’s what warms my heart. He cared enough to find out who it belonged to.”
Miller said her sister was with her two sons at their rental townhome when she got a text warning her that the storm was headed her way. Without even stopping to put on shoes, she gathered her sons, jumped in the car and headed to the family’s new home just blocks away.
“One of my nephews didn’t even have a shirt on,” Miller said of the family’s frantic escape.
Unlike the townhome, Miller said, the new house had a basement where the family could take shelter. But when they emerged after the storm, they found that their new home had been destroyed around them. The garage had also collapsed, destroying their car.
They walked the seven blocks back to the townhouse, only to find that it, too, had been destroyed.
Miller said the family’s insurance company is putting them up in a hotel for the time being.
Most importantly, she said, “They are OK.”
Although she lives in Ohio these days, Miller said her family has connections in Plainfield and Naperville. Her uncle is Naperville Mayor George Pradel, and her parents still live in Naperville.
Thanks to the overwhelming support from local residents, “My parents’ house is overfilled with donations,” Miller said. As of Wednesday afternoon, the GoFundMe fundraiser had also raised about $8,700.
“The outpouring has been simply overwhelming,” Miller said.