Baar Topinka: 'You start to feel like Job a little bit'

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11581743013123.jpg’, ‘Photo by Jason Carson Wilson’, ‘Illinois State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka speaks during a Sept. 7 press conference. State Sen. Dave Syverson (R-34) stands behind her. Baar Topinka announced her office had pledged $1 million in low-interest, one-year loans to help Rockford and Winnebago County victims of flooding caused by the Labor Day storm.’);

State treasurer announces help for flood victims

Illinois State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Judy Baar Topinka said, during a Sept. 7 press conference outside of Robert Cholke Photography, her office was pledging $1 million in low-interest, one-year loans to help victims of the Labor Day downpour and subsequent flooding.

Baar Topinka said victims can apply for assistance through the state’s Disaster Recovery Program at participating local financial institutions. She noted additional funds could be made available, if necessary. Baar Topinka stressed the program’s efficiency: “We know it works. We know it works quickly. You can get cheap money fast.”

The realities of rent and mortgages don’t disappear in the face of such a natural disaster, she said. Baar Topinka wants to provide tools to help victims “put their lives back together. We’re here to help, not to tie down Illinois with any more debt.”

Baar Topinka and Rockford Mayor Larry Morrissey toured the Robert Cholke Photography site at 1724 7th Ave. with Cholke’s business partner, Debra Capriola. Baar Topinka said she had sympathy for the flood victims, comparing them to biblical adversity: “You start to feel like Job a little bit.”

Capriola outlined the damage as she led Morrissey and Baar Topinka through the building, pointing out how the business’ back door buckled. “The water came in like a freight train,” she said.

The business’ portrait and fine arts inventory is a complete loss, Capriola said. She also noted business could be at a stand-still, unless they find a new site or shoot on location. Although her business took a severe hit, Capriola had something for which to be thankful: “We, at least, have a dry home to go home to.” She said residential neighbors of her business were standing on their porches crying.

James Clancy, who’s lived at 804 14th St. for eight years, said his home sustained about $30,000 in damages. That damage includes loss of a car, furnace, central air, as well as the contents of his basement and two garages. Though Clancy has flood insurance, he said the policy won’t help replace contents, including clothing and appliances. He noted he had a homeowner’s policy as well.

He said the water came up to 3 feet above his basement windows. If not for Rockford firefighters, Clancy said, he would have lost his Staffordshire terrier. Other losses included landscaping. While facing those losses, Clancy found a bright side: “I’m so lucky my basement didn’t fall down.”

Before the press conference, Clancy said he hoped it would give him some answers.

Morrissey announced federal help was en route. He said Federal Emergency Management Agency officials were expected to arrive in Rockford Sept. 8, and U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s offices informed him of their imminent arrival.

American Red Cross Rock River Chapter Director of Community Relations Kathy Dyrdahl said the organization’s focus had shifted somewhat, as the Rock River Chapter has transitioned from a shelter mode to service mode. She said the chapter has begun assessing people’s immediate needs and finding ways to meet them. According to Dyrdahl, the chapter and the Salvation Army have teamed to man canteens. Dyrdahl noted other American Red Cross chapters have been called on to help.

Interim City of Rockford Human Services Department Director Amy Newell said her department had met with 40 families by 8 a.m., Sept. 7. Newell said they’re dealing with issues on a case-by-case basis. She also encouraged the community to make donations: “Rockford is a great community. We help each other out.”

Newell suggested people make donations to places such as the American Red Cross, while stressing their monetary gifts would remain in the area.

From the Sept. 13-19, 2006, issue

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