Donations pouring in for tornado relief in Sunset Hills; total now about $85,000

Staff report

Donations poured in last week for tornado relief in Sunset Hills, boosting the city’s special assistance fund to roughly $85,000 and counting, the mayor said Monday.

The city’s Tornado Assistance Fund, or TAF, collected more than $20,000 on Saturday alone during a cleanup in which hundreds of volunteers participated, Mayor Bill Nolan said.

“And checks are still on their way,” he told the Call. “We’ve received checks from across the country — Philadelphia, South Carolina. People saw it on the Internet. They write a check and mail it. It’s amazing how people react when people are in need. It isn’t amazing — it’s wonderful is what it is … I mean people just want to be able to help.”

The TAF benefits Sunset Hills residents who were displaced by a category EF3 tornado that ripped through the area on New Year’s Eve. Nolan estimated there were 13 families whose homes were either “totally destroyed, condemned and will be torn down … or can be repaired but not any time soon.”

The weather system involved tornadoes and high winds in communities across the state, including Sunset Hills, Crestwood and Fenton.

The storm — with winds near 150 mph — tore a path of destruction from just east of the Fox Bridge subdivision along West Watson Road through the South Lindbergh Boulevard intersection. While the storm caused extensive damage to many area homes and businesses, no fatalities or serious injuries were reported. Statewide, tornadoes touched down in 13 locations, killing two people near Rolla and two people in Dent County, just south of Phelps County.

A cleanup Saturday focused on clearing storm damage in Watson Trail Park. More than 800 people volunteered, Nolan said. Among them were 40 Lindbergh High School seniors who worked alongside their teachers, according to a Lindbergh news release.

“On (Saturday), we had pretty well cleared the field. (The volunteers) picked up most of the stuff,” Nolan said. “The cities came in and pitched in with our crews to fix the park — or to do what we could to get the park looking good again, or at least determine exactly what our damages are. The response has been overwhelming and the outcome has been excellent.”

The TAF took in more than $20,000 on Saturday, including more than $14,000 raised by two radio stations that broadcasted during the cleanup and roughly $7,400 from a fundraiser sponsored by Grantwood Village, Nolan said.

The village on Saturday also collected several boxes of donated material items, Board of Trustees Chairwoman Cathy Forand said.

Sunset Hills TAF donations totaled roughly $60,000 before Saturday’s cleanup. One contribution was a $10,000 check from an anonymous resident, Nolan said.

“We had a resident of Sunset Hills who shall remain nameless who stopped by City Hall (Jan. 7), quietly slipped up to the counter and wrote a check for $10,000,” he said. “The media immediately wanted to know who he was but … I called him and he said: ‘No, I don’t want anybody to know. I’m doing this because those are my neighbors and this is my city.'”

The TAF on Jan. 7 also received a $1,000 donation from Mehlville Local 1889 of the International Fire Fighters. Nolan praised the Mehlville Fire Protection District for its efforts since the New Year’s Eve tornado.

“… Based on the last week of working with the Mehlville Fire Department, they’re incredible — absolutely incredible. What a team, really,” Nolan said. “We had 50 firemen on the scene from Mehlville in a matter of minutes after (the tornado) happened, plus Kirkwood and others …”

Lindbergh Schools conducted an online fundraiser last week to support American Red Cross relief efforts in Sunset Hills, Fenton and Crestwood. The drive raised $1,771 in contributions.

At least two fundraisers for tornado relief are scheduled to take place in the next week.

The John Cary Early Childhood Center in the Mehlville School District will sponsor a “Friend to Friend” book sale from 3 to 6 p.m. tomorrow — Jan. 14 — at the center, 3155 Koch Road.

Gently used books will be sold for 25 cents each, with all proceeds going to tornado relief in Sunset Hills.

St. Anthony’s Medical Center will sponsor a “Pauper’s Meal” to raise funds for tornado relief in Crestwood, Sunset Hills and Fenton. The meal — a meager fare of soup and bread — will be available for a free-will offering, with a minimum requested donation of $5 each, according to a St. Anthony’s news release.

The “Pauper’s Meal” will be offered from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 19, in the St. Anthony’s cafeteria on the lower level of the hospital, 10010 Kennerly Road.

Those who wish to donate to the Sunset Hills TAF directly are asked to make checks payable to the “City of Sunset Hills-TAF” and mail them to: City of Sunset Hills-TAF, 3939 S. Lindbergh Blvd., Sunset Hills, MO 63127.

Nolan emphasized that TAF moneys are only being used to help residents displaced by the tornado. Repairs to damage the city sustained in the storm can be paid for with its insurance or cash reserves, he said.

“The city can take care of itself … What we’re raising money for is to take care of people, and every single dime is going to go to the people,” the mayor said. “And if we’ve got more money than they need, the balance of it will either go to Service International, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross or some place like that.”

to see a photo gallery of Saturday’s cleanup.