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Program Helps Tornado Victims with new Household Items

PEORIA - "House in a Box" provided new beds, sofas, dressers, and tables to victims who may not have had everything covered through insurance or financial aid.
PEORIA - It has been three months since tornadoes ripped through central Illinois.

Many victims are still getting their lives back together.

Jason Hoffman remembers the moments before the November 17th tornado took out his house.

"I got hit by sidewall," he said. "I fly down. We're holding that above our heads. Just went, glass, and everything comes up through."

Fear soon turned to anxiety.

"We didn't have squat," he said. "You know, having to restart your life. You had everything for twenty-some years, and you never thought a tornado would hit Washington. It hits your house and takes everything."

Like many in Washington, Hoffman and his family have had to start over. While a good portion of the victims are covered through insurance, not everyone was as fortunate.

That is where the Society of St. Vincent de Paul comes in, with "House in a Box".

Spokesperson Tom Pelger said "It's a program to offer kind of an immediate response to people that have lost everything in a major disaster, particularly those that didn't have insurance."

Victims get to pick out household furnishings.

"I think we got a couch, two beds, a dresser, dishes, towels," Hoffman said.

And these items are brand new.

"Because it's a national program, we've got good relationships with suppliers," Pelger said. We've been able to go out and purchase, at good prices, all new items."

The group hopes that with new beds and tables, tornado victims looking for chance to start over can finally do so.

"The savings I did have, I was spending on a car and on this, but (they) helped us with that," Hoffman said. "(They) helped me tremendously with the bed and everything."

"One of the things that I've been impressed by is just the resilience of the people," Pelger added. "A lot of people came in with a smile on their face, but the smile just got a little bit bigger when they left."

The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul says they still have enough items for tornado victims who never had a chance to come out to house in a box.

If you need help, you can call their hotline at 677-7696, or the American Red Cross at 677-7272.
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