Naperville residents Kevin Austin, Kelly Dougherty and Michael Rue share painful common ground.
They each walked on nails in yards still littered with debris from last year’s EF-3 tornado.
Due to the ongoing safety and environmental concerns lurking in the backyards of many storm-affected homeowners, Dougherty and fellow Naperville resident Kristy Kennedy, co-founders of the Ranch View Area Community Assistance Group, spoke at the from Tuesday’s city council meeting to share frustrations they’ve encountered trying to help their neighbors.
They asked for the city’s help in pairing their group with a local nonprofit to properly distribute funds to the hardest-hit homeowners, especially for yard damage costs not covered by insurance.
Dougherty and Kennedy said they received estimates of up to $30,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for a neighbor to complete the landscaping work needed to ensure homeowners, their children and pets can safely roam the grounds. their court.
“I am disappointed and frustrated with community leaders’ lack of attention and understanding of what the victims of the Naperville tornado are enduring as they struggle to recover from this natural disaster,” Kennedy said. “There is a perception in Naperville that the tornado is long over, everyone is fine and there is no need for it.
“I think that perception was the biggest hurdle for us as we tried to find a nonprofit partner.”
City officials said at Tuesday’s meeting they would help find a partner. Kennedy said she had been in touch with groups, but there remained a lack of understanding regarding the legality of what they were looking for.
After consulting with attorneys and researching similar situations, Kennedy learned that a tax agent could be appointed within a nonprofit organization to distribute money.
Fiscal agent, liability insurance, accounting and auditing fees would be paid with the money they raise.
Naperville Central graduate Katie Dalton said she raised $6,200 through a GoFundMe campaign. But Dalton said she couldn’t find a group to distribute the money with the guarantee that it would go directly to Naperville owners.
“There are people who want to help, but there’s nowhere to put their money,” said Dalton, now a freshman at the University of Illinois. “I need an organization to help me distribute this money properly.”
Kennedy said his group was considering gaining nonprofit status, but the months-long process would cause too long of a delay.
“There is no non-profit organization here in Naperville to raise funds and help those affected by the tornado here in Naperville,” Kennedy said. “In fact, the money raised here in our community left Naperville and went to help people in other areas.”
In Woodridge, another town hit by the tornado, the local Rotary distributed relief funds to residents. Another non-profit group, Woodridge Neighbors Helping Neighbours, has developed as a long-term solution to current and future disaster situations.
Naperville officials have declined to attempt to create a nonprofit wing within the city structure, meaning an established nonprofit must be a partner for tornado relief in the city.
“We talked at the beginning. It really wasn’t the space in which we could provide assistance,” said Rachel Mayer, the city’s chief financial officer. “It’s not really mission-centric for us.”