Volunteers are helping Woodridge families repair homes damaged in a 2021 tornado

CHICAGO (CBS) — More than a year and a half after an EF-3 tornado tore a path of destruction through the southwest suburb of Woodridge, some residents are still dealing with the impact of the devastating storm.

Cold temperatures and a light gust of wind Wednesday didn’t stop dozens of volunteers and the mayor of Woodridge from helping four families repair their homes and yards.

Tree branches smashed through Joe Trancredi’s window and impaled his bedroom when the tornado touched down on the night of June 20, 2021. Now volunteers are helping him paint his ceiling and clear debris in his backyard.

“It’s great, especially right now because I think it’s been tough for a lot of people, whether your home has been hit by a tornado or not. Just the last couple of years, I think, have been tough for a lot of people” said Tancredi.

Tancredi’s home was just one of them more than 600 in Woodridge that were damaged by the tornado. That tornado also caused damage in nearby Naperville and Darien.

Woodridge Mayor Gina Cunningham and her nonprofit organization, Woodridge Neighbors Helping Neighbors, teamed up with the Home Depot Foundation to help four families still rebuilding from the devastation.

“I think what the families have had to endure is a long road with COVID — so post-pandemic — insurance, contractor issues and supply issues. So it’s been a very long road for the families,” Cunningham said.

Dianne O’Donnell, co-chair of Neighbors Helping Neighbors, is emotional about giving back before the holidays.

“It’s one thing that you end up getting as much, if not more, back than what you give,” she said before she choked up and took a moment to collect herself. “So we’re very happy and very grateful to everyone who helps.”

Crews worked hard in the cold and snow on Wednesday. Home Depot said a couple will be surprised when they arrive to find a new pond in memory of their daughter who died weeks after the tornado.

A few blocks over, several volunteers helped Marion Bryant paint her doors.

“I feel like my house is alive again. It even inspires me to do this, that and the other,” Bryant said.

In this spirit of giving, Woodridge sets the standard for neighbors helping neighbors.

Cunningham said more than two dozen homes remain unoccupied in the wake of the tornado. She expected those families will have access to their homes next summer.

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