GIBSON CITY - A well-known community name has stepped up to aid flood-relief efforts in Gibson City as dozens of residents, businesses and property owners try to recover from the historic flash flooding on Aug. 12, when the town received a reported 9 to 11 inches of rainfall in eight hours.

Clubs in Rotary District 6490, which encompasses 20 counties in East Central Illinois, bought and delivered supplies and donated funds to the Gibson City Rotary Club.

Rotary District 6490 Governor Heather Stoa was shocked when she saw pictures of the devastation. “It was so bad because you know people’s homes are just damaged beyond repair and their belongings are ruined,” she said.

Stoa acted quickly to submit an application for a Disaster Response Grant to the Rotary International Foundation so that kids could be back in school and adults could be back at work. “I thought it was important so people wouldn’t have to deal with issues like mold that might affect their health,” Stoa said. “I thought it was important for businesses to be back up and running so people had resources in their community. As I understand it there are no state or federal aid available to Gibson City, a lot of the people that lost items are low income, and a lot are renters and may not have adequate insurance.”

Stoa knew that about 200 Rotary districts had been awarded Disaster Response Grants during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the fund might be getting depleted, and she knew that Rotary districts in Haiti and Germany would likely be applying for the grants to help with recent natural disasters there. “Once we got going on it, it happened really fast,” she said.

Stoa was notified on Sept. 3 that the maximum amount, $25,000, was awarded. The money will go toward replacing and installing furnaces, hot water heaters and small appliances such as stoves and refrigerators, as well as providing materials to repair damaged walls and floors for Ford County residents affected by last month’s deluge. The grant will help fill the void for residents who don’t have insurance to replace their belongings.

“I’m thrilled we were able to make it happen,” Stoa said. “I think it shows we’re a very generous group and quick to respond. We are a service organization here to help and to support our communities.”

Past Rotary International Director Robert Stuart of Springfield, a founding member of the Disaster Network Assistance Rotary Action Group, met with Stoa, Gibson City Rotarians and Assistant Governor Jim Mathews on Aug. 25 and said, “The aid agencies will assist immediately after a crisis. The difference between what they do and Rotary is that Rotarians are there before, during and after a disaster.”

The Rotary Foundation established the Disaster Response Fund to rapidly respond to natural disasters. The fund provides disaster recovery and supports rebuilding efforts where the need is greatest. Funds are contributed by Rotarians in more than 200 countries and territories globally. Since 2019, The Rotary Foundation has approved more than 350 disaster response grants totaling more than $8 million for immediate relief and short-term assistance.

The Gibson City Rotary Club is challenging others to join them to turn those dollars into more to help city begin rebuilding.

Those in need of assistance to repair or replace flooded appliances need to complete and submit an application with the Gibson Area House Rehab Foundation. The late Paul Sunderland, a retired physician, started the foundation to assist homeowners who otherwise couldn’t afford household repairs.

Individuals and companies interested in contributing can send tax-deductible donations to the Gibson City Rotary Foundation, a 501©(3) charity, can be sent to P.O. Box 103, Gibson City, IL 60936.