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State funding to help Naperville residents still affected by 2021 tornado

We have been impressed by the resilience of residents still recovering from the powerful tornado that ripped through southern DuPage County in June 2021.

Neighborhoods in Naperville and Woodridge were the hardest hit. The twister damaged hundreds of homes and injured at least 11 people.

During the first six months after the tornado, residents trying to repair their homes had to deal with unreliable contractors, supply chain disruptions and lengthy negotiations with insurance companies.

Some gave up and sold their damaged houses to contractors. But many persisted and even got much-needed support from other neighbors.

In Naperville, Kristy Kennedy and Kelly Dougherty created the Ranch View Area Community Assistance Group to help homeowners still dealing with issues. They also served as liaisons to the city.

One problem that persists is that dozens of Naperville yards have been rendered unusable because of lingering safety and environmental issues. The properties remain littered with dangerous debris.

During an October presentation to the city council, some affected residents talked about shards of glass, metal, plastic, nails and screws that keep popping up through the ground when it rains. Simply walking through their yards is hazardous.

Homeowners cannot remove the debris themselves. Meanwhile, insurance doesn’t cover the high cost of hiring a landscaping company to repair a yard.

So, the nonprofit MP Foundation partnered with Kennedy, Dougherty and others to raise $1.5 million to help approximately 300 homeowners, including 70 who need yard replacements.

Then around Thanksgiving, Kennedy connected with State Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, who lives within a few miles of where the tornado struck. To her credit, Stava-Murray sought funding from the state to help the residents.

Now that funding is possible thanks to an appropriations bill that state lawmakers approved last week. The measure, awaiting Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature, will provide $1 million to the MP Foundation.

While there’s still money to be raised, our Kevin Schmit reports that the $1 million provides extra time to plan with contractors and help homeowners begin work immediately when the weather allows.

Who would have thought it would take so long for these homeowners to get the help they need? Still, seeing how the neighbors came together to help one another is inspiring.

Kennedy says she’ll push for county and city grants to help secure the rest of the money needed to reach the fundraising goal. We wish her the best of luck in that effort.

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