Disaster victims in southern illinois receive relief
from northern illinois parishioners
Story and photos by LIZ QUIRIN
“It’s just amazing,” Pat Watson said. “Every day somebody calls to come and help.”
Watson is a parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Harrisburg and was on hand March 29 — a month to the day — after an EF4 tornado ripped the small community apart, killing seven people.
On this particular day, a group from St. Francis de Sales Parish in Lake Zurich, Ill., brought two trucks to southern Illinois, with 22,000 pounds of canned food and water to distribute to Harrisburg and Ridgway.
The previous week, the pastor, Father David Ryan, had traveled to the same communities to deliver a $13,000 check to each of the two diocesan parishes, the result of a second collection at St. Francis de Sales.
Here’s how it happened. March 1, which Father Ryan described as a snowy afternoon in northern Illinois, David La Vanne, a 17-year-old parishioner and Boy Scout in the parish-sponsored troop, went to him saying: “Father, we have to do something.”
David’s desire to do something, he said, was inspired by the devastation he saw in media coverage of the Joplin, Mo., tornado, an EF5, of a year earlier. Add to that FEMA’s refusal to help Harrisburg, and the people are much more dependent on the generosity of many other people.
And those people are stepping up, Pat Watson said.
The University of Illinois’ baseball team gave the town a $10,000 donation. A television station in Harrisburg, Penn., came in, Watson said, and even went to the parish fish fry.
Watson said the local Baptist church youth group decided their mission trip this year would keep them at home where they could help people clean up and start putting the pieces back together.
The town has really pulled together, she said. “I can’t tell you how good it is to see people working together.”
In Ridgway, Father Beatty said they’re taking it “one day at a time.”
He helped unload the truck of supplies from Lake Zurich.
David La Vanne said he would use the relief effort to earn his Eagle Scout Award. “I just hope it will make a difference in someone’s life,” he said.
La Vanne, his parents and the other Scouts that accompanied the trucks to southern Illinois, toured the devastated areas. They stopped in Ridgway and saw that the rectory had been demolished and removed, and the church had been reduced to a pile of bricks
Later, they returned to Harrisburg to see what the tornado had done to the town before returning to Lake Zurich.
St. Francis de Sales has more than 4,000 families, Father Ryan said, drawing from a number of communities in the area.
Not only did people in the parish support David but also the students in other high schools. This is the first time people have responded as a parish, Father Ryan said.
David began collecting canned food and water March 3 and delivered it March 29. A parishioner donated the use of a company truck and a driver for the delivery.
“It’s a very active parish,” the pastor said.
A diocesan staffer received a call from Father Ryan noting that a parishioner brought him a check for more than $4,000 after learning about the efforts being made to help the people south of Chicago. That brings to more than $30,000 the amount this parish has donated to the relief effort.
|Mail your request:
2620 Lebanon Ave.
Belleville, IL 62221