In the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life”, George Bailey embodies a human spirit of community-based generosity that we don’t see much these days. The new normal is that our neighbors are oftentimes strangers.
Last summer’s F2 tornado tested the community of Revere. With damages in the millions, dozens of families lost their homes and businesses, while others had extensive property damage. Thankfully and amazingly, no one was injured. Revere’s first responders, including Police, Fire, and Public Works, along with 40 other organizations from surrounding communities assisted in the cleanup effort directly after the tornado. Despite the best government planning and budgeting, an act of destruction of this magnitude requires outside assistance. Forming a public/private partnership can be a successful tool when catastrophes strike.
With the extreme rarity of the tornado, and Revere being a coastal community, a vast majority of the costs associated with the storm were limited by the scope of coverage or subjected to large deductibles. The City of Revere acted as a catalyst, coordinating public and private voluntary contributions with no public expenditures other than human labor along with pro bono resources, to provide much-needed emotional and monetary assistance to victims.
Our goal was to successfully raise funds for those who suffered the devastating effects of the tornado. As a result, we created The Revere Tornado Relief Fund (RTRF) so residents and business owners did not have to shoulder the financial burden alone. Hundreds of private residents and business owners from Revere, and across Massachusetts donated to the fund to provide aid for those in need, most of whom they had never met. More than $260,000 was raised and distributed to 100+ families and businesses impacted by the tornado. The RTRF Applications Review Committee held numerous meetings in order to determine the fair and reasonable allocation of payments in accordance with the Fund’s guidelines which focused on unmet needs. In order to qualify for RTRF assistance, applicants had to provide proof of loss and insurance, and reliable supporting documentation that was focused on deductibles.
As the Mayor of Revere, I and a committee of people asked Former Middlesex County District Attorney and Nixon Peabody partner Gerry Leone to serve as Fund Administrator/Executive Director. He, along with Eric Walz and other Nixon Peabody colleagues devoted countless pro bono hours to the establishment, management, and distribution of this fund. Also central to the RTRF Committee efforts were RTRF Board Directors David Surface, CEO of St Jean’s Credit Union, former long-time Revere resident and former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Probation Department Ron Corbett, Jr. and local resident and business owner Michael Falzone. Frank Perullo and Meredith Lerner of Sage Systems, Debbie West, and Revere Building Inspector Bennie DeChristoforo were key members of the fund’s administration. Many others donated numerous hours in order to ensure the fund was effectively managed and handled with the highest degree of integrity.
This effort was led by Revere residents, business owners, and friends of Revere. Most notable for their very generous corporate donations to the RTRF, which helped establish the financial foundation of the fund, were Suffolk Downs, People’s United Bank, St. Jean’s Credit Union, Massport, Comcast, Cataldo Ambulance, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Mohegan Sun, and the Neighborhood Developers.
The community suffered damage exceeding the government’s capabilities, but still the city of Revere persevered. The government publicized its city’s needs to millions, and many statewide generously stepped forward to support the cause.
Government, along with the help of private industry partners, can break down walls of anonymity and bring the community back together again. The Revere tornado challenged the resiliency of residents and business owners alike. Following this powerful and destructive devastating natural disaster, that caused many to suffer heartache and emotional and financial distress, we saw examples of true generosity, compassion, sympathy and empathy that we all can be proud of.