SYCAMORE — Sycamore resident Lee Newtson didn't wait for authorities to tabulate all the damage a tornado caused in Washington before heading to the town of 16,000 east of Peoria.
A veteran of disaster sites, Newtson knows what is needed. He has worked at ground zero in New York City and in the tornado-ravaged communities of Joplin, Mo., Ridgeway and Harrisburg, Ill., and Bethel Acres, Okla.
"They are pretty well organized in Washington. My contacts there told me they are doing another sweep this morning," Newtson said Monday. "I'll probably be working with families to help them get paperwork to the proper agencies and helping them look through debris for their important papers."
He's not going to Washington empty-handed, either. Newtson said his truck is about three-quarters full with cleaning supplies and food donated by Pat Hill at Hill's Country Store in Kaneville.
"She always packs a lunch for me, too," he said.
Newtson has enough experience to know what he'll likely encounter there, Hill said.
"When he went to Oklahoma, he had to sleep in his car, and he ate the food I had packed for him," Hill said.
Hill said the store has been accepting toys for two different toy drives and they have a collection jar for needy families during the holiday season.
"We just switched the money already collected to a more urgent need," Hill said.
"We will probably continue to collect money in case Lee goes back down there again," she said.
Newtson said he always seeks out a couple of families that have lost everything. He gets a picture of them at the site where their homes used to be so he can tell their stories and collect funds and supplies to help them.
"I get the information out to about 400 contacts from my email list and Facebook," Newtson said. "The money goes directly to the families with no administrative costs."
Hill appreciates the direct approach. "It makes me feel good that I can give to someone who will get it to individuals in need."
Newtson said donations can be sent directly to him at 2535 Lilac Lane, Sycamore, IL 60178. People can also find his personal profile on Facebook to receive updates.
"We're all in this together," he said. "We need to do whatever we can to help each other."
Following is a list of sites collecting items and taking donations to assist Washington, Ill. residents affected by Sunday's tornado.
• Tri State Towing, 1438 Pleasant St., DeKalb, 815-756-7597 – Donations of clothing, diapers and other baby needs, personal hygiene items and nonperishable foods are sought to fill a trailer. Tri State Towing is open 24 hours.
• Hair Productions, 815-751-8012 – Owner Jen Scott is accepting cash donations with which she plans to purchase shampoo, conditioner and soap which she will have shipped directly from the beauty supply company. She also will accept donations of pillows which she will deliver to the community. Hair Productions is located in her Sycamore home; call for the address.
• Heritage Woods of DeKalb, 2626 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb, 815-787-6500 – The staff is collecting hand sanitizer, water, work gloves and personal hygiene items.