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Huskie community rallies in wake of tornado

April 23, 2015
An NIU football player helps with the recovery in Fairdale.

An NIU football player helps with the recovery in Fairdale.

The April 9 tornado that ripped through the towns of Fairdale and Rochelle passed less than a half-hour away from the Northern Illinois University campus.

In the weeks following the devastation, it’s not surprising that members of the Huskie community have moved forward together to aid in the recovery effort.

“NIU staff and students have been volunteering their time to collect donations, providing food, transportation and health care resources, as well as working at the tornado impacted sites since volunteer operations opened up,” said Jennifer Groce, director of community affairs for NIU Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development.

According to AmeriCorps, who is coordinating the volunteers for the relief efforts, NIU volunteers are part of the more than 2,500 volunteers from throughout the state and across the country who have helped in the immediate recovery in Fairdale.

“These are our neighbors,” Groce said. “We are going to help; we’re all Huskies.”

Groce said that AmeriCorps reached out to NIU last week requesting a large scale volunteer cleanup effort.

Huskies responded in force.

More than 80 players and coaches from NIU’s football team used their brawn Saturday, April 18, to clear yards and move piles of debris in the parts of Fairdale that were hardest hit by the tornado. Other departments, including Marketing and Communications, Student Involvement and Leadership Development, Community Affairs, Transportation, NIU Police and Housing and Dining helped to facilitate volunteers for cleanup efforts Sunday.

Although inclement weather forecasts prompted AmeriCorps to halt the efforts set for Sunday, the work is not complete. There is an immediate need for additional volunteers through Friday, April 24, to remove debris. Groups from NIU are encouraged to register to volunteer at

“NIU is committed to being a resource to the community of Fairdale – and Rochelle – for the long term recovery effort, and we are making ourselves available to both communities,” Groce said.