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PAAR Turkey Drive sets record; tornado relief events successful

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Peoria-area Realtors set another record in its annual Turkey Drive, with help from local partners and national suppliers while they keep finding ways to help victims of the Nov. 17 tornadoes.

The Peoria Area Association of Realtors said Monday that the annual fundraiser reached $23,600 this year, topping the previous record of $23,000 set last year. That will enable the association to provide Kroger meat vouchers to 25 area food pantries that are dealing with higher-than-normal needs this year.

This generosity comes on top of the overwhelming response to help victims of tornadoes that destroyed hundreds of homes in Washington, East Peoria and Pekin. PAAR members have raised thousands of dollars and delivered truckloads of supplies to help the victims; from around the state and country, individual Realtors, real estate offices and Realtor Associations donated more than $40,000 in gift cards and cash, in addition to supplies.

Dallas Hancock, PAAR CEO, expressed her gratitude at the number of gifts and the depth of caring from local, state and national Realtors.

"One of the great things about our business is that when a disaster strikes, Realtors swing into action and donate whatever they can to help community residents," said Hancock. "The response to the tornado disaster has been incredible, with not only cash and supplies locally, but also from Realtors traveling from around the state to delivery truckloads of requested items and to lend a hand wherever necessary.

"But with the annual Turkey Drive already in full swing and the deadline on the heels of the crisis, we were in danger of not reaching our goal for the first time in 27 years. Thankfully the PAAR Affiliate Partners, local business partners, friends, family and even several national vendors, stepped up to the plate with donations to make sure we could deliver the same level of assistance to local food pantries counting on our help."

Added PAAR President Tonya Burris, "In light of the overwhelming local disaster this year, everyone made a sacrifice, changed a tradition or reached a little deeper – from holiday luncheons that became tornado- or turkey-drive donations to our own holiday event, which was dramatically downsized – allowing us to help meet the incredible need to assist others through our Turkey Drive. When I look at all ways we've been able to help in a short time, I'm proud to be a Realtor."

Other assistance available through PAAR for tornado victims includes:

· To assist displaced homeowners, the association partnered with a database of available housing to help those who needed a central location to offer and look for rental housing. Landlords can register their properties directly.

· To assist those homeowners and renters with no or inadequate insurance, PAAR is assisting with the one-time grant application for mortgage or rent payments, available through the REALTOR® Relief Foundation. PAAR was at the Countryside Banquet Center on Wed., Nov. 11 with excellent response from local survivors.

· Two additional Housing Outreach Programs are scheduled at Pekin's Avanti's Dome and in East Peoria at the Fondulac Bank Clock Tower Building, both on Tuesday, Dec. 17 from 5 to 7 p.m. Residents who are not able to attend the Housing Outreach Program but still desiring assistance from the REALTOR® Relief Foundation may apply by downloading and filling out the form from PAAR's website or IAR's website.

PAAR began its annual Turkey Drive in 1987 with 100 donated frozen turkeys. Today, the turkeys are in the form of meat vouchers that can be redeemed for a turkey or another preferred meat item at a Kroger store. The vouchers are generally used by agencies in holiday food baskets, distributed as needed this winter, or used to provide a warm holiday meal.

To date the annual Turkey Drive has donated more than 25,000 turkeys to Peoria area agencies, food banks and churches and based on the needs reported by the food pantries, PAAR plans to continue the tradition for many years to come.

Other relief events results

The Peoria Symphony Orchestra raised more than $11,000, with proceeds going to the American Red Cross, in a benefit concert less than two weeks after the storms.

"This concert was a way the Peoria Symphony could join with others in the community to help and be responsive to the community. Not only was there a concert which would raise money for the relief effort, but it also provided an opportunity for the singers, musicians, staff and others to be part of the community healing process," said PSO Executive Director Susan Hoffman. "Our intent was to be very inclusive and allow everyone who wanted to participate to do so."

The call went out for musicians and singers and in just a few short days nearly 200 musicians and singers signed up to share their talent on the concert. This included several who were directly impacted by the tornado and had their lost homes. These participants represented over 20 various orchestras, choirs, choral groups and universities and from all over central Illinois.

The concert included the performance of portions of Handel's Messiah and a welcome from Mayor Jim Ardis of Peoria, who introduced the mayors of three surrounding communities hardest hit by the tornado - Gary Manier of Washington, Laurie Barra of Pekin and Dave Mingus of East Peoria. A reading by the former Secretary of Transportation and local resident Ray LaHood, an invocation by Reverend John Blossom and a video showing the strength of the communities rising out of the destruction were also part of the event.

The Dec. 4 Rock to the Rescue concert at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, which featured well-known artists who donated proceeds to the relief efforts, raised more than $400,000 through ticket sales, donations and the auction of items that included autographed guitars, posters and other memorabilia.

Promoted by Jay Goldberg Events and Entertainment, that concert featured REO Speedwagon, Styx, Ted Nugent, Suvivor, Head East, Richard Marx and Brushville. It was emceed by Larry the Cable Guy.

About the Author
Paul Gordon is the editor of The Peorian after spending 29 years of indentured servitude at the Peoria Journal Star. He’s an award-winning writer, raconteur and song-and-dance man. He also went to a high school whose team name is the Alices (that’s Vincennes Lincoln High School in Indiana; you can look it up).