The Midwest is still recovering from the deadly tornadoes that struck a week and a half ago. About 1,400 hundred homes were damaged or destroyed in hard-hit Washington, Illinois.
Nearby in East Peoria, volunteers are organizing a Thanksgiving dinner for the families who lost their homes and those working on the cleanup and recovery.
Amanda Uphoff, a travel agent and wedding planner from Germantown Hills, Ill., is organizing the Thanksgiving dinner and speaks to Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti.
- Amanda Uphoff, Germantown Hills resident who is organizing Thanksgiving dinner for Illinois tornado victims.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:
It's HERE AND NOW.
We're grateful that you're spending some time with us today, hopefully in the comfort of your or a loved one's home. Of course not everyone gets to spend Thanksgiving that way. So we're going to spend a few minutes now with people who are giving thanks in the midst of disaster, war or fragile post-war stability. And we'll begin with families in the Midwest who have no homes to speak of after the tornadoes that struck last week. One person died and 1,400 homes were damaged or destroyed in the hard-hit town of Washington, Illinois.
So nearby in East Peoria, volunteers are hosting a special Thanksgiving dinner, one of several events in the area for families who lost their homes and for the volunteers who have come to their rescue. Along with the turkey and cranberry sauce, they'll have activities for children, a DJ, and a lot more.
Amanda Uphoff is organizing the dinner at the East Peoria Community High School. And Amanda, I imagine this is a tough time for everyone who's been affected by the storms. For people who've lost their homes, how are they feeling?
AMANDA UPHOFF: I think everyone is just so appreciative of everyone's help. We're just fortunate that everyone's, you know, pretty much OK. And so they're really in, you know, good spirits here and everything. So...
CHAKRABARTI: And how many people do you expect today for the meal?
UPHOFF: I hope hundreds. But I mean, even if we serve just 20 people, I would still be happy because that's 20 people that, you know, we provided a dinner for that, you know, had no other option. So anyone that we serve today, I'm happy that we were able to help in at least some way, so...
CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. How do you usually spend your Thanksgiving?
UPHOFF: Just with my family. And they're all coming here too to help. So it's definitely a community and family affair. You know, we're - Metamora and Washington are rivals with football, but we kind of put that aside when it came to all of this and helped each other, so...
CHAKRABARTI: And I just want to ask, your family's OK and weathered all the storms all right?
UPHOFF: Yeah. Yes. We're fine.
CHAKRABARTI: OK. Now, I am curious though. What inspired you to be a volunteer for this Thanksgiving meal this year? Why did you want to do it?
UPHOFF: Well, I mean even though I wasn't personally affected, I mean I would have done this, you know, for anyone. So - I plan things for a living, and I always like doing this kind of stuff. But they needed, you know, someone to help them. And so I think everyone has really good ideas to help people, and it just takes that, you know, push to get it going and everyone just jumped on board. We had thousands of requests to help in any way, so everyone just wanted to help. They just needed the platform to do it.
CHAKRABARTI: Yeah. Now, I understand that your volunteers are starting to filter in the school to help prep for the large meal. So tell me, what are you going to make?
UPHOFF: Oh, we have turkey and, oh, mashed potatoes and corn, all that typical stuff. But we have a million desserts and we have so much going on. We have so much food. We are just overwhelmed with food and help.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, it seems to me, though, that this is exactly the spirit of Thanksgiving Day, what it's supposed to be, don't you think, people coming together and helping out and being grateful for their community?
UPHOFF: Agreed. I think it definitely - this experience probably, you know, humbled a lot of people and just made people realize exactly what they should be thankful for, you know?
CHAKRABARTI: So on that note, and my last question to you, Amanda, is: What are you giving thanks for today?
UPHOFF: I mean this sounds cliche, but I'm just thankful for everything. I'm thankful that I have a great job and I have my home and I have my friends and my family. And I'm just happy that I could help other people.
CHAKRABARTI: Well, Amanda Uphoff is organizing a community Thanksgiving dinner for victims of last week's tornadoes that swept through much of Illinois. Amanda, thank you so much for all your volunteering and your work, and I hope you have a great day.
UPHOFF: I hope you have a great day, too. Thank you for reaching out to me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.