CRYSTAL LAKE – When a tornado rips through a town, Bernie Boyle and his band of volunteers are never far behind.
Boyle and roughly 30 other volunteers officially incorporated the charitable organization His Working Volunteers this year and are ready to start a busy summer season of helping families in need starting in Gifford.
"We have 13 people going down; a few electricians, a couple contractors and whole bunch of us old geezers that do the grunt work," said Boyle, who lives in Crystal Lake. "We hope to put up walls and get the electric and plumbing complete on a house. Hopefully we'll get at least one of the houses finished up."
Like on most of its trips, the group plans to leave Sunday for the town 180 miles away and return Saturday. Boyle said the crew spends anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day working to make sure at least one house is nearly complete before leaving.
Sometimes, such as the case with the Marseilles flooding, multiple trips are needed to accomplish all they want.
"It's pretty hard to determine what we are going to accomplish because we don't always know the extent of the damage," Boyle said. "How much we can get done depends on how efficient we are."
Boyle said Gifford has rebuilt a little more than half of the demolished homes.
The group has already seen a significant increase in volunteers, starting with four members three years ago and now reaching 30, which led to the officials corporation. While Boyle said the organization does accept donations, the group is often supported by government programs on-site, such as Red Cross, or will pay its own expenses.
When volunteers are not traveling to places such as Gifford or even as far as Oklahoma, they spend time helping people in McHenry County. Boyle said he recently completed a wheelchair ramp for a disabled woman.
"There have been times when the temperatures are in the 90s and your working hard and sweating with no shade," Boyle said. "But at the end of the day the satisfaction overpowers all the hard work. It's an indescribable feeling."
Boyle said the group has a basic website at hwv.petedev.net and those interested in volunteering can contact him at 815-788-1050.