Elburn Lions make donation to help small town rebuild

By on July 11, 2014
Unloaded Right Guard

Photo: Elburn Lion and District 1-J Vice District Governor Chris Halsey (right) hands boxes of Right Guard deodorant to Gifford Lion Roy Roberts and other Lions Club members, including District 1-E Governor William “Butch” Guennewig (in background) of Arcola, Ill., in late March at St. Paul Lutheran Church’s community pantry. The deodorant is a gift from the Elburn Lions Club, which has also pledged to send a truckload of Dial soap. Photo submitted by Tim Evans/Rantoul Press

GIFFORD, ILL.—If you ever wonder where your money goes when you spend it at an Elburn Lions function, a recent donation the Lions made in Gifford, Ill., provides a clear answer.

The tornadoes that devastated parts of downstate Illinois last November caught the attention of the Elburn Lions Club, and members began a fundraising effort to do what they could to help.

Lions Linda Callaghan and Kristen Damolaris made posters, sent press releases to local newspapers and placed donation drop boxes at businesses around town. They were able to raise a total of $4,600 through these donations, and the Elburn Lions Club contributed an additional amount to make it $10,000.

Although the destruction in downstate Washington, Ill., was the most widely publicized, Elburn Lion and Illinois District 1-J District Governor Chris Halsey discovered that the town of Gifford, a small rural town of approximately 900 residents, had suffered significant losses, as well.

Halsey made a trip to Gifford last winter to do some research on the damage, and brought back images of homes that had been damaged, as well as empty lots where houses had been. Nearly 30 homes had been destroyed and more than 40 had experienced major damage.

Halsey learned that the tornado had also damaged the town’s main water supply, wiping out its water tower and water treatment facility. Through the winter, portable water treatment equipment was set up in a tent heated with propane to keep it from freezing.

“It was pretty devastating at first,” said Maureen Ackerman, wife of Gifford mayor Derald Ackerman.

Halsey made another trip to Gifford in March to present the check to Mayor Ackerman. Ackerman, who is also a Gifford Lions Club member, accepted the check on behalf of the town.

“Since it was from one Lions Club to another, we were pretty confident that it would be dispersed appropriately,” Elburn Lions Club Secretary Chuck Galauner said.

Ackerman said that the Gifford Lions Club has set up a tornado relief fund through a local bank, where the money has been deposited. A committee will distribute the funds to people in need as they go about getting their homes rebuilt and redone.

“It was such a rough winter; it was hard to get anything done then,” Ackerman said. “But things are starting to look up and a lot of homes are now being rebuilt.”