When tornados roared through Pekin, East Peoria and Washington last November, they left behind a swath of destruction our community will never forget. Even as we mourn the loss of life, we are grateful that so many lives were spared. And while the loss of homes, belongings and treasured keepsakes left thousands devastated, “Central Illinois Strong” is already taking steps toward renewal.
As development projects go, this one was not on anyone’s radar prior to November 17th. But fortunately, those of us charged with public health and safety have made crisis planning a priority for many years. When disaster struck, our community was ready, from first responders on the scene to medical personnel at area hospitals.
Within hours of the tornados’ rampage, we sent a generator to our UnityPoint Clinic on Cummings Lane in Washington. The next morning our clinic opened its doors as not just a medical facility, but a warming station, a safe haven—even a source for working bathrooms! While clinic staff welcomed visitors, other employees and Methodist College students set out on foot and in golf carts (courtesy of Weaver Ridge) to hand out bottled water, food, work gloves, hand warmers, garbage bags and more.
During the days that followed, UnityPoint Clinic in Washington continued to provide services—from tetanus shots to counseling—for those needing emotional support. The clinic also served as a hub for volunteers, including Methodist and Proctor employees and students who have already provided well in excess of 2,000 hours of service as part of the cleanup efforts.
Central Illinois has always been generous to those in need, from local volunteers who travel to distant disaster areas to medical personnel who volunteer their services in Haiti and other struggling nations. In this case, the people impacted by the tornados were our friends, our neighbors, and in some cases, members of our own Methodist/Proctor family. In fact, 35 of our employees lost their homes as a result of the storm. Our Human Resource Services team immediately began reaching out to identify and help those in need. We have paid rent and hotel bills, car and homeowner deductibles, provided gift cards to help with immediate needs, and provided emotional and pastoral care support.
The generosity of our entire UnityPoint Health family in helping these employees has been overwhelming. More than $53,000 was given to our foundation for employee assistance—donations not only from Methodist and Proctor personnel, but from employees throughout the UnityPoint Health system. Many of these individuals turned vacation time into a donation to help coworkers they may never have met.
I am so proud and grateful to our employees and to everyone in central Illinois who rallied to support those whose homes were lost or damaged. In the weeks and months to come, I know our wonderful community will continue to pull together as we help Washington, Pekin and East Peoria rebuild for a stronger future. iBi