What the tornado didn’t take of James Hart Junior High teacher Ric Druse’s home on June 22, a bulldozer finished off last week.
But friends, colleagues and Homewood residents are there for Druse with monetary donations, students hosting fundraisers and a clothing drive for his neighbors.
Druse, a former Homewood resident, is living in Coal City, a community of 5,000 west of Braidwood, Ill. As the winds began to pound the community that Monday evening, Druse, his wife and three children went into their house crawl space for safety. That act saved their lives. Their house was split in two.
“The toughest part was watching them tear down the house,” he said. His family was able to salvage some photo albums and clothing but most everything was lost. “It’s hard,” Druse admits, “but it’s just stuff.”
His colleagues at Homewood School District 153 immediately planned a drive to support the family. Shelly Marks, District 153 school board president, said originally donations were going to be sent to the district office, but several people recommended the GoFundMe fundraising website.
Within 24 hours, the initial goal of $5,000 had been met. They are closing in on a new goal of $25,500 and supporters hope to meet that goal shortly. As of noon on Friday, July 17, the total raised was 24,815. Donations will be accepted through July 31 at http://www.gofundme.com/xrg44m4
“It has been more successful than I could have ever imagined,” said Marks, who noted that on the fourth day the total had reached a staggering $18,000.
“Homewood and our school community are so incredibly generous when someone is in need,” she said. “Many of Ric’s former students who now live all over the country have donated and posted the nicest, most supportive comments.”
Druse said his family is gratified by the outpouring of monetary support, but he admits “what I got more out of was the comments people left” on the donation site.
“It’s very humbling.”
Marks believes the comments about Druse from his former students “speak volumes about him and every teacher that gives their heart and soul to their students.”
Druse has been back to Hart School since the tornado to say thanks and think about preparations for the 2015-16 school year. He will be back several times more to collect the clothing that has been donated for tornado victims. He will be dropping things off at We Care of Grundy County, the coordinating agency.
“I have insurance. My house will be rebuilt and my belongings will be replaced, but there are lots of families who are not that lucky,” he said. He is certain they would each want to extend thanks to the many donors.
For now, the Druse family is living in a rented house trying to collect their memories of their home so they can annotate every item for insurance claims.
“We’re working room by room by memory,” Druse said. “It takes a lot of time.” He also will learn soon whether his house foundation is strong enough to rebuild on, or whether the project will start from scratch.
Jessica Gonzalez and Marilyn Thomas collaborated on this story.
James Hart teacher’s home destroyed by Coal City tornado (HF Chronicle, June 24, 2015)