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Diamond digs in as cleanup effort intensifies

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Updated: December 21, 2013 6:26AM



Work to clean up the aftermath of Sunday’s tornado in Diamond and Coal City got a boost Tuesday from a visit by a group of Chicago Bears players.

Volunteers and residents couldn’t help but smile when they saw Bears kicker Robbie Gould walking across their debris-strewn lawns, his arms full of bottled water.

The Bears players — a group that included Gould, Zack Bowman, Blake Costanzo and Sherrick McMannis as well as former players Tom Zbikowski, Anthony Adams and Rashied Davis — helped volunteers unload supplies at Coal City United Methodist Church, then walked through a storm-ravaged subdivision handing out food.

“It’s heartbreaking. It’s tough to see someone go through something like that,” Gould said. “Today we’re not worried about football. We’re really focused on trying to help the community out.”

The players walked down Laura Lane in Diamond Estates Tuesday afternoon, arms full of food and supplies, and stopped at nearly every house to check in on residents. Their visit, organized in conjunctionwith the Red Cross of Greater Chicago, came a day after Gov. Pat Quinn also visited the neighborhood.

“This is awesome,” said Laura Lane resident Ed Hajduk, who was at the Bears-Ravens game on Sunday when the storm tore through his neighborhood. “It’s a big morale booster.

“Look at my neighbor’s house behind me, look at the houses down the road,” Hajduk said. “They got it much worse than me.”

Construction equipment, contractor vehicles and insurance representatives filled Laura Lane Tuesday, while volunteers walked through with food, water and coffee.

At least 11 tornadoes tore through Illinois on Sunday — killing at least six people and injuring up to 200, demolishing homes and buildings, uprooting trees and downing power lines. Locally, no one was killed, but hundreds of homes in Grundy and Will counties were damaged or destroyed, and people were left struggling without power and, in some cases, water.

Quinn has declared disaster areas in 13 Illinois counties, including Will and Grundy counties.

There were 90 customers in Coal City and Diamond still without power Tuesday night, ComEd reported. The company estimated that about 30 of them should have power by midnight, the rest by noon Wednesday.

ComEd has had teams working in the area around the clock since Sunday, with 25 crews working there Tuesday night. The company anticipates replacing more than 70 poles and 80 spans of wire.

Hundreds of volunteers checked in at a Diamond banquet hall Tuesday and were put to work cleaning up debris, organizing and delivering supplies.

“In the worst of times you see the best in people,” said Coal City Mayor Neal Nelson, who stopped by the Coal City United Methodist Church while volunteers unloaded donations. “It’s an amazing thing. It shows you the resilience of America.”

Jose Valencia and his wife, Cindy, of Crest Hill were at work picking up debris in a field near Route 113 and Interstate 55 Tuesday morning.

The retired couple lost a home in the 1990 Plainfield tornado, Valencia said.

“Just lending a hand, that’s all,” he said.

Near the area the Valencias were working on, Mohammad Ali of Bolingbrook, who owns Stop & Smoke Tobacco, 3010 E Division St., met with an insurance adjuster amidst the wreckage of his shop.

Ali and a customer were in the store during the storm Sunday. He said they crouched behind a bathroom door as the wind tore the roof off the building.

While the building was reduced to rubble, and his inventory — which was overstocked for the holiday season — blew out into the forest, neither Ali nor his customer were hurt.

What really stung was having to fend off looters trying to steal what was left of his stock, Ali said.

“It’s very sad. That’s complete selfishness,” Ali said. He mentioned a couple of people who offered to help him clean up on Monday, who then proceeded to slip items into their pockets.

Police have been stationed in disaster zones overnight to watch for looters.

Ali said he will reopen his shop, which he had run in that location for about three years.

“Definitely the tears come down, but the faith is strong,” he said.

For now, the Diamond Village Hall, Diamond Banquet hall and Coal City United Methodist Church serve as hubs for donations and volunteers.

Anyone looking to volunteer with the clean-up effort is asked to check in at Diamond Banquet Hall, 55 S. Daly, in Diamond first.



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