Photo: A Catholic church located in Ridgway, Ill., show the damage caused by a tornado that struck Southern Illinois on Feb. 29. Courtesy Photo
Kaneville store plans raffle for Southern Illinois tornado victims
by Keith Beebe
KANEVILLE—Pat Hill’s fundraising effort for families affected by the tornado that ripped through Southern Illinois on Feb. 29 began with a collection jar on the checkout counter of her business, Hill’s Country Store in Kaneville.
The Hill family’s tornado relief effort has since grown to a full-scale raffle fundraiser, thanks to Pat’s 21-year-old daughter, Alexa.
“The donation jar was a great idea, but I felt like we should do something more and get more money, so I thought we’d have some raffles and a bake sale,” Alexa said.
The Hill family first learned of the Southern Illinois tornado relief effort from Sycamore resident Lee Newtson in early March. Newtson told Pat he planned to travel to the disaster area and meet with families whose homes were destroyed by the tornado.
The disaster also claimed the lives of seven people in Southern Illinois.
“Lee came into the store on a Monday and said he was heading down to Harrisburg that Saturday. I said, ‘Jeez, what do you need?’ and he said he was trying to collect money and gift cards to take down there where the help is needed,” Pat said. “I told him I could put out a jar and see what I get by Saturday. I collected some personal hygiene items from people and also raised about $172 before (Lee) left (for Southern Illinois).”
Newtson first learned about disaster recovery at Conley Funeral Home in 1960. He trained on Chuck Conley’s ambulance service and assisted on removals, visitations and funerals. Newtson participated in disaster recovery in New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, as well as the relief effort in Joplin, Mo., following a deadly tornado that struck the area in May 2011.
“I have been able to gain support with donations from my Grace Fellowship Church of Maple Park (and) Pastor Jim Harper,” Newtson said. “Also, the Men’s Prayer Group on Saturdays, 1960 high school class mates, doctors, dentist, friends, Pat at the Purple Store (Hill’s Country Store) and acquaintances. They have all given me money, gift cards and goods to take along on the tornado recovery missions.”
Newtson worked primarily with two families—the Wynn family of Ridgway, Ill., and the Lane family of Harrisburg—during his time in Southern Illinois. He took them out to lunch, met their children and surveyed the damage done to their respective homes. The Lanes have no insurance and currently live in the basement of their tornado-ravaged home, while the Wynns are living in a makeshift camper in their friend’s driveway.
The raffle put together by Pat and Alexa Hill will go toward the two families.
“Both of those families are having a hard time, and I thought this fundraiser would be a good event to pair with the Kaneville Fire Department’s Easter egg hunt,” Pat said. “We’ll have a table set up during the event, and my son, Tyler, will be there to help out. My goal is to send each of these families a $500 check, and we’ve raised $102 up to this point.”
Raffle tickets will be sold at the fire station, 46W536 Lovell St. in Kaneville, during the Easter egg hunt, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 31. Tickets can also be purchased at Hill’s Country Store from now until Wednesday, April 14, at 3 p.m. Raffle tickets will be sold for $1 each, or six for $5.
Pat said there are at least 10 or 15 big prizes lined up already for the raffle, including a $50 Visa gift card from Old Second Bank, a $25 gift card to Ream’s Market, a $25 gift card to Sam’s Club, a gift basket from American Bank and Trust in Elburn, a gift card to Panera Bread, a blu-ray player, and a $50 gift basket from Hill’s Country Store.
As for the actual raffle drawing, Pat believes it will take place sometime during the middle of next week.
“I am thinking it will happen April 4 or 5, so we can write the checks and mail them to the families by Easter, which is April 8,” she said.
Alexa said the purchase of just one raffle ticket can make a difference in the lives of both families.
“The pictures of the damage just looked horrible, and I can’t even imagine losing all of my stuff like (these families did). If you can come out and just buy one or two raffle tickets, you’re helping them,” she said.