A dollar-bill fundraiser with a catchy name is catching on at La Salle-Peru Township High School.
La Salle-Peru Township High staff members who have strong ties to tornado-stricken Washington, Ill., wanted to do something for people there. Football coach Joe Sassano was talking with Tom Watts, who does video for football games when Watts came up with the idea for “Washingtons for Washington.”
On Monday over the lunch hour, special education division chairman Jen Plym and school counselor Emmy (Zukowski) Carney were collecting dollar bills from students and staff members, and on Tuesday, students from the baseball and football team were taking donations.
Students or faculty will continue to collect cash and checks next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and then they plan to make a large donation in Washington, all in dollar bills, if possible, Plym said.
“We have still to determine how we will take it down to them. I’m not sure if it will be the administration or Jen and me,” Carney said.
Donors will receive orange ribbons, and next Wednesday, the fundraiser organizers urge students to wear orange to show support for the damaged community one hour south of La Salle.
The donations will go to a fund for students and families that was set up by the Washington schools.
“Their community is certainly ‘Washington Strong,’ but could benefit from any financial support we can give,” Carney noted.
Donations can be directed to L-P’s counseling office, so that one lump sum donation may be given to Washington. Checks should be payable to LPHS with a memo “Washingtons for Washington.”
Financial, emotional support
Carney and Plym know firsthand that most of the tornado victims are more in need of financial help than supplies and items right now, following a huge initial outpouring of supplies from Illinois residents after news of the devastation spread.
L-P allowed Carney to travel last Thursday when Washington High School reopened. She was there to help with counseling and support needs for students and staff members who rode out the tornado in basements and those who lost their homes and possessions. She was glad to do it.
“I would say any time you have a tragedy take place, everyone’s on so many different levels. Some people are still in shock from having gone through the experience that day. Some are just happy to be alive,” she said. “The town of Washington is very strong. A lot of people are in very good places (emotionally and mentally) and just looking toward the future.”
Carney, a Peru native who was a counselor for three years at Washington High before coming to L-P two years ago, also helped as a counselor at the end of the school year in Washington after L-P dismissed last spring.
From Washington to L-P
While Carney’s husband, Patrick, also on staff at L-P, has extended family in Washington, Plym is a Washington High graduate.
Plym’s parents live outside of Washington and lost their house. One of her sisters lives in a Washington subdivision that was destroyed. Plym went to her parents’ farmhouse the day after the tornado and was unable to go to her sister’s house because the town was locked down.
In addition to Plym, about 30 volunteers showed up that day — some from as far away as the state of Ohio — to start helping with cleanup at her parents’ house.
“Everything that was in the attic was in the field,” Plym said. Her dad had a “huge Morton building that was gone” other than its foundation, and a 30-foot camper was missing as well.
“They found the wheels and the trailer base in the field,” she said of the camper. The only other evidence of the camper was a door they found. “We did manage to find about a storage unit full of stuff.”
To help her sister, she had to meet her on the edge of town and ride back to the destroyed subdivision to help recover a few items. Most of what they found were toys and other items from the basement, the same one where her brother-in-law and nieces and nephew, ages 12, 7 and 4, hunkered down to ride out the storm.
She also believes the people there don’t need clothing, food and supply donations like they once did.
“My understanding is they were still having volunteers help,” Plym said. “I know they still are taking financial donations and that’s why we started with the Washingtons for Washington.”
She noted a lot of the people may have had decent insurance, but they’ve taken a financial hit from sudden costs for everything from lodging and daycare to vehicle replacement.
She knows firsthand how much people appreciate donations.
“A lady at the post office overheard my mom making a change of address,” Plym said.
The woman turned to her mother and handed her a $20 bill. Plym said her mother said she had received a great deal of support already and did not need it. But the woman insisted, saying she wanted to give it to her anyway, because she would know for sure that all of it was going to a tornado victim.
Plym has been closely watching a Facebook site, “Washington Found,” where people have been posting photos of items they have found in their yards that may have been carried by the tornado and storm.
She saw a letter on the site and recognized her mother’s handwriting. A person from Channahon posted the photo. It’s priceless — it’s a love letter her mother sent her dad in the late 1960s or ’70s when he was in the Navy.
Plym is missing her wedding dress, and her sister’s wedding dress apparently flew away, too.
Craig Sterrett can be reached at (815) 220-6935 or email@example.com.