Pat and Sheila Weisbruch's tornado-damaged neighborhood in Washington Ill. His Forest Park sister, Amy Rita, is organizing a gift card drive for families who lost their homes.

All that was left was the basement.

Forest Parker Amy Rita was visiting Colorado when she heard about Sunday’s tornado, which destroyed 500 houses in her brother’s hometown, Washington, Ill.

After two frantic hours of phone calls, the family made contact. She found out her brother’s house was lifted off its foundation and destroyed. Patrick Weisbruch, his wife Sheila, their daughter and their pet yorkie survived — huddled in the basement. The family lost everything but each other.

“The families in Washington are going to need absolutely everything, things we take for granted each and every day,” Rita said.

She and her husband are organizing a gift card drive for Washington families who lost their homes. Shoes, food, toiletries, clothing, toys and dishes will need to be replaced.

Forest Park businesses Gaetano’s restaurant, Team Blonde and Schauer’s Hardware are accepting gift cards of any denomination to merchants such as Target, Home Depot or Toys R Us.

“Whether it’s $5 or $50, every card will make a difference,” Rita said.

Gaetano’s will offer a free glass of wine to anyone who donates a gift card, Rita said. “And it’s good wine.”

Rita will collect the cards and deliver them to Washington on Dec. 8.

As for her brother’s family, they stayed with her mother in Peoria for a couple days and now have moved into a friend’s home that was vacant and for sale, she said.

“They’ll bulldoze the whole area that was hit by the tornado and people will be allowed to build back on their foundations next spring,” she added. 

Jean Lotus loves community journalism. She covers news, features, two school boards, village council, crime, park district and writes obits for Forest Park Review. She also covers the police beat for...

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