November 20 2023 0comment

United Way of the Wabash Valley Awarded Up to $2.73 Million for Sullivan County Tornado Relief

United Way of the Wabash Valley will receive up to $2.73MM to help support the relief efforts in Sullivan, Indiana, after the devastation from the March 31st tornado.  The funding was made possible through United Way of the Wabash Valley’s membership with Indiana United Ways, the state professional association for 42 of Indiana’s 44 United Ways.  The tornado ripped through the community claiming three lives, injuring others and damaging or destroying 200 structures, 150 of which were in city limits. The National Weather Service later determined the tornado was an EF3 with peak winds of 155 miles per hour.

Immediately after the tornado, the Wabash Valley Community Foundation and United Way of the Wabash Valley mobilized, along with numerous other organizations, to help bring resources to those in need. Under direction from the National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), a national 501c3 that helps communities across the country manage disaster recovery efforts, the Sullivan County Long-Term Tornado Recovery Coalition (SCLTTRC) was formed to aid in the distribution of donated and granted recovery funds.  The Wabash Valley Community Foundation is providing fiscal oversite and sponsorship to the SCLTTRC and their Help Sullivan Recover Fund while the United Way of the Wabash Valley is administering outside grant funding to support administrative contracts for staff members of the SCLTTRC who are directly working to help those in need.

Following the initial work of the SCLTTRC, and after the FEMA funding process, it was readily apparent that the need in the area was much larger than the funding that had been secured through local donors, corporations, and outside grants.  The SCLTTRC has been handling over 180 cases; and while many have been closed without local financial assistance, because of FEMA and SBA aid, there are still 70 open cases seeking additional assistance.  The Help Sullivan Recover Fund has raised approximately $1.15 million since the start.  Because of this great need, which exceeded the Help Recover Sullivan funding, the United Way of the Wabash Valley worked with Indiana United Ways to secure a grant from their Indiana Natural Disaster Fund.

Richard Payonk, Director of the Sullivan County Long-Term Tornado Recovery Coalition explained, “We are grateful to Indiana United Ways, and that organization’s primary funder, for recognizing the devastation in Sullivan County and granting these additional relief and recovery funds. Our local donors have been tremendous, but this grant will now make it possible to take our recovery efforts so much farther than we had hoped.  We currently have over 70 open cases needing everything from internal or external repairs, to a full home rebuild. These grant funds will make it possible to not only help the most in-need cases, but now to also address many who have scratched and clawed to rebuild, but had to drain their own savings or dip into a 401k and may continue to struggle financially.”

Abby Desboro, Co-Executive Director of the United Way of the Wabash Valley stated, “We are delighted to be able to utilize our partnerships to help provide $2.73 million in additional funding to those affected by the Sullivan tornado.  Our work across the community is centered around lifting those in need up and creating ways to prosperity.  With this additional grant funding the SCLTTRC will be able to help many more families that are still working to rebuild their lives.”

“The timing of this grant award is perfect,” said Beth Tevlin, President & CEO of the Wabash Valley Community Foundation. “The Sullivan County Long-Term Tornado Recovery Coalition recently made the first of what will be many distributions from the Help Sullivan Recover Fund held at the Community Foundation. Thanks to this grant support, more funding will be available to benefit the Sullivan residents most impacted by the March 31 tornado.”

For more information on the SCLTTRC visit their Facebook page at:



United Way of the Wabash Valley is an organization looking to go beyond temporary fixes to create lasting change in our communities throughout our six-county region. By bringing together volunteers, companies, and organizations focused on innovative solutions, we impact thousands of lives every year right here in the Wabash Valley.  Our bold goal is to move 10,000 local families out of financial struggles.  For more information, please visit,

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The Wabash Valley Community Foundation is a tax-exempt public charity created by and for the people in the Wabash Valley. The Community Foundation enables people with philanthropic interests to easily and effectively support the organizations and issues they care about – immediately or through their estate plans. Donors may give to existing funds or establish a charitable fund at the Community Foundation by contributing a variety of assets. For more information on the Community Foundation, please contact 812.232.2234 or visit

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Indiana United Ways is the state association for United Ways in Indiana that supports thriving United Ways through capacity building, shared services, and partnering. For more information, contact Michael Budd, President & CEO at [email protected]. The Indiana Natural Disaster Fund at IUW is supported by Lilly Endowment Inc.