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Illinois volunteers catalog lost tornado documents

Published: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013 12:00 a.m. CDT

MORTON – A central Illinois public library is working to reunite storm victims with their lost family documents that were scattered during last month’s tornadoes.

More than 1,000 items have been collected and catalogued at the Morton Public Library in Tazewell County, The (Peoria) Journal Star reported. Another 1,000 or so documents still need to be sorted by volunteers and more are arriving by mail.

Officials say the material started arriving at the Library several days after two dozen twisters hit the state on Nov. 17.

The collection includes photos, military records, report cards, love letters, marriage licenses and even baseball cards. The workers are also storing a family’s German Bible from the 1880s, old slides and a Boy Scout’s camping journal from the 1950s.

Workers at the library that’s about 10 miles from Peoria hope to be able to return the items to their owners.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Laura Ruff, a volunteer from nearby Washington who is working on the project.

Most of the documents were scattered when storms raked across the state causing damage from far southern Illinois to the Chicago suburbs.

But Washington bore the brunt of the damage. A tornado that had winds that topped 190 mph damaged or destroyed more than 1,000 homes in the community.

Documents carried away in the storms have been found more than 100 miles away.

“Returning these items to their owners as quickly as possible is our mission,” said volunteer Heather Binder.

Workers are numbering each item that’s found and noting where it was discovered. In some cases, they’re also trying to research possible owners and they’re posting photos of some items on Facebook.

So far, they’ve already managed to reunite some families with their lost belongings, including military medals that belonged to a woman’s dead brother and a memory card filled with family photos.

“Every day is empowering,” said Margie Gale, who is one of three people overseeing the project.

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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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