‘I had to help’: FHSD student collecting donations for tornado victims

Posted on 12/16/2021
Donations collected for recent tornado victims

When 16-year-old Donnie McCloud saw the devastation left behind by a recent tornado, he knew he had to help.

According to the National Weather Service, an EF3 tornado hit St. Charles County just before 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 10. The tornado struck west of Defiance, at Highway F, and traveled a little over 2 miles to Highway 94.

St. Charles County inspectors estimate the storms caused more than $3.4 million in damage. The assessments, completed by the county, determined 72 structures were damaged in some way. Three people were injured, and one person lost their life.

McCloud has lived in the Francis Howell School District since first grade and is very invested in his community. He attended Daniel Boone Elementary, Francis Howell Middle School, and is currently a junior at Francis Howell High School. A Facebook group McCloud started, New Melle 411, became an easy way for the small town in crisis to communicate.

“When the tornado hit, the page just went crazy. People were checking on their friends, families, and neighbors. It was very chaotic, but it pulls on my heartstrings to see how much strangers care about people they had never met. Just wanting to make their community better,” McCloud said.

January of 2020, McCloud had an idea to start the Facebook group to bring people together during the pandemic. What started as a small idea quickly grew into something much larger.

“It’s amazing to me. The group has over 4,000 members and continues to grow every day,” said McCloud. “This Facebook community connects so many people in the Francis Howell School District, but it’s for anybody who wants to help.”

He says the power of social media helped after the tornado struck. Businesses reached out to him and the other Facebook group administrator, Erin Cox, to donate their goods and services. 

Saturday morning, McCloud drove to a local gas station and picked up pizzas. Then, he drove to a bakery to pick up dozens of donuts. He started handing out the donated food to tornado victims and first responders who were working to clean up.

“It felt so good to help all of these people in their time of need. Most of the people didn’t have power and sadly three homes were leveled by this storm. Whatever I could do to help, I was going to make it happen. I had to help,” said McCloud.

Cox and McCloud worked with St. Charles County Ambulance District Deputy Chief of Special Operations Jeremey Hollrah. Together they collected hundreds of items. The group went to Target and bought clothing and other necessities.

Donations poured in. Dozens of cases of water, boxes of toys, blankets, and clothing quickly filled the New Melle firehouse.

“With the holidays coming up there is great need, but the families could really use gift cards for restaurants and groceries. If you are a business owner that wants to get involved please don’t hesitate to reach out,” McCloud said. “We appreciate and love that everybody is donating. This is what St. Charles County is all about.”

If you want to donate a gift card to the families in need, you can contact McCloud by joining the New Melle 411 Facebook page. You can also email McCloud by clicking here.

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