Paying It Forward Post-Disaster

Mayor Manier of Washington, IL Paying it Forward to Fairdale, IL Kirkland Lions Club Members

Yes, the news can seem dire. Another tornado, a storm, a flood, lives lost, homes destroyed, families and their larger communities devastated. The cameras and news teams leave after the major tragedies are caught on film. Then what happens? Good things. Good things happen. Volunteers come out of the woodwork. Some are with highly trained crews; others are individuals from a neighboring town. Even more are locals. More people come because the same thing happened to them a few years ago. The common thread between all of these people who show up to help is that they want to do good work. They want to feel helpful, connected, to give hope and possibility at a time when it is hardest for the victims to see that possibility.

It’s the concept of paying it forward – and it is almost an underground movement that goes from one disaster-impacted community to another. It comes in the form of a group of people building a shed for a golf course owner in Washington, IL after a tornado rips his entire business apart. It adds up to a small monetary donation, yes, but a huge spiritual one. It’s a donation and volunteer effort that symbolizes recovery and hope, but most of all, acknowledgment that one is not alone.

And what happened after Washington, IL was well on its road to recovery after the tornado of November 17, 2013? The City found the means to raise $10,000 to donate to the recovery efforts in Fairdale, IL – a “sister city” of some sort – as Fairdale was just struck by a tornado on April 9, 2015. Washington knew what Fairdale needed and they stepped up. It’s the money that was reported in the news but it’s also phone calls, offers of support and guidance from individuals, the Mayor and the City employees of one community to another.

At Close to Home, as we work to bring housing and building solutions to communities impacted by disasters, we hear these stories over and over again. And it’s these stories that make the news reports somewhat easier to bear. In this day and age of technology, it’s simply a matter or time before connections are made from one community to another. The Facebook pages go up, allowing communication on recovery efforts of all sorts; where to give and receive donations of all types, where to bring and recover lost animals, where to gather for the most recent fundraiser as the community finds its way to rebuilding.

It is the strength of the original community ties that determine how resilient a community will be when put to the test of surviving a disaster. And it’s the pay-it-forward nature of those who want to lend support that eventually helps that community to succeed.

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