Plainfield Township families come together after floods
By Susan DeMar Lafferty Sun-Times Media April 20, 2013 7:28PM
Updated: May 22, 2013 7:13AM
Carpeting and furniture were tossed to the curb, debris filled the streets and water still filled many basements in a small unincorporated neighborhood of Plainfield Township.
Dressed in waders and boots, weary but grateful faces came to Grand Prairie School on Caton Farm Road on Saturday, which became a collection point for much-needed supplies.
“I’m still in a ‘what-do -I-do-now’ mode,” said Shelley Lyles, as she loaded her car with soap, bleach and paper towels. She and her family have only lived in their house in the 3000 block of Harris Drive since August after they gutted and remodeled it. Now, her husband was ripping it all out again after 18 inches of water filled their house, built on a slab.
Bleach, gloves, garbage bags, and cleaning supplies were in demand Saturday as floodwaters began to recede and homeowners began to deal with the aftermath of Thursday’s flood.
Volunteers at Grand Prairie School District 202 — organized by Tom Hug and family — came together to help their families whom they felt were in this forgotten area of Plainfield Township.
Word went out via Facebook on Friday night and school Principal Janan Szurek made robocalls to school families and opened up the gym. By noon Saturday, the school gym was filled with bleach, paper towels, cleaning cloths, food, clothing, linens and toys. For those who didn’t hear about it or couldn’t make it to the school, volunteers loaded up a school bus and delivered it personally.
“Look mom! We can make sandwiches,” one boy said as he picked up some bread, peanut butter and jelly, while his mom filled a bucket with sponges and window cleaner.
As residents came out to the bus, they were warmly greeted with hugs and a “what do you need?” from the volunteers.
“This is amazing,” many said as they filled their arms with the donated goods.
“Donations like this are great,” Scott Everhart said. While he planned to wait for the water to completely recede before cleaning his yard, he said his biggest concern was making sure this doesn’t happen again.
Water had poured in from overflowing detention ponds, Chase Lake and a branch of the DuPage River. It has flooded before, in 1996 and 2008.
Some homeowners were angry, believing that Will County or Plainfield Township should address the drainage issues here. Others were more focused on their task at hand.
Lyles’ story was repeated by many in this little neighborhood, where families had no power, no heat, and no water for drinking, showering or cooking.
“I just wanna do what I got to do,” Larry Parks said. “I just need help with the little things.” His home on September Drive took the brunt of the water’s wrath. On Thursday, his above-ground pool was submerged and he couldn’t see his four-foot fence. By Saturday, the water had receded so he could at least begin to throw out the contents of his garage and his house.
“The floors are black. There’s nothing to save,” he said.
While Sheila Mack gratefully accepted snacks, water and cleaning products from the volunteers, she said what she needed most was a place to stay in the neighborhood so her kids could get to school, and her elderly father could have his hospital bed.
“I’ve never witnessed this ever,” she said. Mack figured it would be at least another week or two before she could move back in. The lower portions of her quad level home still had a lot of water, forcing her to shut down all the power.
Like others in this little neighborhood, she has to stay with family or friends.
Tom Hug and his family decided Friday to organize this effort after driving around and looking at the damage in the area.
“I cried several times. I was so overwhelmed. We had to do something,” Elizabeth Hug said. “We’re a small community and we really pull together.”
Their efforts won’t stop here. Tom Hug, a Mokena firefighter, planned to recruit volunteers and scouts to help people get their homes back in order.
He made a contact with Frank Bermudez at American Remodeling Contractor Inc., who offered to help rebuild the home of a single mom.
“I can’t believe the outpouring of support,” Tom Hug said. “We will keep it up. We will see it through to the end.”
His 12-year-old daughter, Carolyn, was one of many students who volunteered to dispense the donations.
“They could not stop saying ‘thank you,’ ” she said.
Just before noon Friday, as water from the DuPage River crept within 6 inches of their Plainfield house, Judi Medveskas said her family was at a crossroads.
“We’re distraught,” she said. “We’re like, ‘Place your bet: Are we going to go? Are we not going to go?’ ”
Medveskas said friends on Thursday had helped her and her husband, Joe, move most of their possessions out of their home next to the DuPage River at Renwick and River roads.
That was after they helped a woman renting a house on their property closer to the river escape the deluge with a bag of clothes and her pets.
“The water was rising so fast you couldn’t believe it,” Judi Medveskas said Friday. “It was like filling up a bathtub. It’s never come up this fast before.”
Contributing: Janet Lundquist