'I think my husband sent them': Kildeer widow thankful for volunteers' help after storm
It wasn't a dramatic emergency rescue but rather unsolicited volunteer help that was a bright spot during a dark time this week for a recently widowed Kildeer woman.
"I think my husband sent them. I really do," said Sandra, who has been a resident of the Pine Valley subdivision on the west side of town for 40 years. The Daily Herald is not using her last name to protect her safety.
This story is one of help provided in a time of need without hesitation by volunteers doing what they signed up to do -- as they have done in the past and will continue to do, usually with little recognition.
Kildeer, like many North suburban communities, had its hands full Monday in the aftermath of heavy, windblown snow. An unusual number of limbs had fallen and, in some cases, trees blocked village streets. Power lines were down, and outages were reported.
With police and fire departments busy, Ela Township occupied in its own jurisdiction and ComEd scrambling, Kildeer Police Chief Steve Balinski called the South Lake County Regional Community Emergency Response Team.
"Everybody was pretty much out of manpower, so they contacted us," said Gregg Heineman, team leader and duty officer for the more than 90-member group that works with fire and police in Deer Park, Hawthorn Woods, Kildeer, Lake Zurich and Long Grove for support in emergencies and at planned events.
CERT activity ebbs and flows, Heineman said, and members may not be needed for weeks or months at a time. But it peaked earlier this week with four calls in 36 hours -- twice to Kildeer for fallen limbs, to Lake Zurich to keep Quentin and Boschome roads safe due a downed wire, and to Long Grove to close Route 22 from Old McHenry Road to Route 83 due to a tree on a power line.
CERT has trained chain saw operators, known as sawyers. A group of them was tending to a heavily wooded street in Pine Valley when they came upon a very long driveway littered with debris but otherwise untouched -- no footprints or tire tracks.
"We looked up and saw the roof of the house and the American flag," Heineman said. "It was by chance we turned around and saw it."
Thinking someone might be in the home, police were called to make a well-being check. Heineman, who estimated the driveway being about 200 feet long, said he and officer Mike Hoover crawled and climbed through snow and limbs to get to the front door. Sandra answered.
"She was very surprised anybody thought to check on her," Heineman said.
Sandra told the pair she had made arrangements to have the driveway plowed and limbs removed in coming days but, for the short term, was stranded. Edwin, her husband of 43 years, had died just five days earlier, she said.
"If he was home, this would have been done," she said. "He would pride himself on having the first driveway cleared in the neighborhood."
Team members, moved by her story, worked to clear limbs and branches and make the driveway passable.
"It was just emotional for everybody," Balinski said.
Sandra had been calling family and friends to say how surprised she was that volunteers thought enough about the situation to initiate a well-being check, according to Heineman, and was shocked to see that in addition, her driveway was plowed.
She plans to bestow gifts on those who helped but hasn't decided what just yet.
"It's going to be something edible," she said.