Facebook page helps Washington residents, volunteers

Four nights after the tornado ripped through Washington, Illinois, more help is rolling into town, thanks in big part to Facebook.

The Washington Illinois Tornado Recovery Facebook page is a collaboration of people in Washington and from the organization Heroes Memorial.

There are 13 administrators on the page and at least three of them are local.

The tornado in Washington touched down at 10:59 a.m. on November 17, 2013 and the Facebook page was up and running by 11:30 a.m. that same day.

Washington resident David Baker is one of the administrators.  He says he was contacted by another Washington resident who wanted to start the page.

“(We) almost felt guilty that our houses, our families were perfectly fine when so many had such extreme losses,” said Baker.

As of 10:30 p.m. on November 20, 2013, the page had 176,680 likes and more than 2.7 million views.

“It’s just absolutely unbelievable that something as basic as a web page can reach so many people in so quick the amount of time,” said Baker.

The page has helped Washington residents in numerous ways, with information about which streets are open, when they can return home and alerting them to stores and businesses providing supplies and even hot showers.  It has directed people where to look for their pets and where they can find generators.  The site has also been helpful with connecting volunteers with those who need help. The site has even helped people find temporary housing.

“My husband looked, and he said, ‘Oh my God look at our house.  It’s gone, the roof,’ and I start crying and he said, ‘There’s nothing to cry about, it’s gone,’” said Shirley Dively.

All that is left of her house in East Peoria is some furniture and a few walls.

“It’s sad, and I know what these other people are going through, so it’s just one of those things,” said Dively.

At least for now, she will call Riverview Senior Living Community her home and so will twelve other tornado victims.  An employee at the senior home posted on the Washington Illinois Tornado Recovery Facebook page that they had some apartments available.

“Every time that we post that a certain area has a specific need, people just come out of the woodwork,” said Baker.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013, the page posted that two people from Louisiana were in Washington to serve free jambalaya.  The post was shared more than 1,000 times.

“It’s been quite humbling to see just the hundreds, or in this case thousands, of people that are hungry to help,” said Baker.

Baker said the 13 administrators update the page whenever they can and they communicate with each other about the postings. He said there is a vetting process so that the information posted on the page is accurate and timely.