Facebook helps reunite owners with tornado-strewn items

GIFFORD — A ring with three stones. A Harley Davidson duffel bag. Old baseball cards. And someone's back X-ray.

Personal possessions scattered by Sunday's tornado are piling up in a couple of bins at the Gifford State Bank, where Tanna Suits has become a human lost and found.

Suits, 28, a credit analyst at the bank, set up a Facebook page first thing Monday morning for "Items found from Gifford/Flatville tornado."

She got the idea after finding a pink and green card in the dirt while cleaning up around the bank. The note read, "Nichole and Mike, Choose everyday to love each other — don't take your love for granted." It turned out to be from a wedding shower for Nichole Dwyre Martinez, intended for a scrapbook being assembled by a friend.

"I thought, 'I would like to have something like that back," Suits said.

Suits always communicates with her 4H Club via Facebook, so she figured it was the most effective way to post information — especially since the tornadoes affected Penfield, Thomasboro and Hoopeston, too.

"These items traveled so far that people wouldn't know how to return them. If you post a picture on Facebook somebody will recognize it and hopefully the right person will get it back," Suits said.

So far she's also identified the owners of the Harley bag, a rodeo vest caked in mud, and numerous photos, many of them from decades past.

Brandi Stalter of LeRoy wrote in to claim a military photo of her Uncle Neil. "Thanks whoever found it. Pictures can't be replaced."

The page is getting readership from across the country. A Maryland man contacted Suits about a photo of his mom and deceased aunt, one of the first pictures she posted. He planned to pick it up when he returned to Gifford this weekend to help his mom with the cleanup, she said.

Many of the items, including the ring, were found on the east side of town and in the fields beyond. Some had flown across town from a house on the far west side of Gifford.

Oddest find? The X-ray, perhaps. Or the bag of books that Suits didn't give much thought to until someone asked her what kind they were. She was a bit taken aback when she looked inside and saw paperbacks "with pretty explicit pictures on the front."

She opted not to post of photo of the books themselves, which turned out to be  Mickey Spillane crime novels.

Someone else brought in a tote full of financial papers, neatly organized in labeled Ziploc bags, now muddy.

"I don't know how they made it, because there wasn't a lid on the tote," she said.

Some people have asked if any money was turned in. So far, no. But Suits has found some canceled checks.

She's also heard plenty of stories, like the homeowner who found a photo and a pair of eyeglasses that had flown in through a hole in the window — from a house two blocks away.

Suits is from Rantoul but, like almost everyone here, has lots of friends and family in town.

She was busy Friday setting up for the annual Country Christmas Craft Show at Gordyville, set for 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Suits said it was originally intended as a benefit for the nursing home, but all proceeds now will benefit the Gifford tornado fund.

"Usually it's a huge turnout," she said. "Now we might have more."

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