Plans take shape for $1 million Amazon donated after 6 workers killed in Edwardsville tornado – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Plans take shape for $1 million Amazon donated after 6 workers killed in Edwardsville tornado – St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Crews work at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. At least six people died when a tornado hit the building late Friday night causing a partial collapse. Photo by Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com
Workers gather debris and move it into piles around damaged delivery vehicles at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. At least six people died when a tornado hit the building late Friday night causing a partial collapse. Photo by Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com
Crews work at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. At least six people died when a tornado hit the building late Friday night causing a partial collapse. Photo by Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com
EDWARDSVILLE — In the days after the Dec. 10 tornado that cut a nearly 4-mile path of destruction, killing six Amazon warehouse workers in Edwardsville, the e-commerce giant pledged to send financial support to the region.
Amazon announced a $1 million donation to the Edwardsville Community Foundation, the largest single donation in the local nonprofit’s 25-year history, and said Amazon workers would be eligible for direct grants of $3,000 to help with losses from the storm.
Now, about three months later, plans have started for how some of that relief money will be spent.
The Edwardsville Community Foundation confirmed to the Post-Dispatch that it has received Amazon’s donation and is using the money to endow its disaster relief fund, which will give grants for past and future disaster victims as well as efforts toward disaster preparedness in Madison County.
The foundation is now taking applications for a first round of funding from the disaster fund, which grew to about $1.6 million through donations from Amazon and more than 500 others across the country in the wake of the storm.
An Amazon spokesperson also told the Post-Dispatch this week that the company has to date made $600,000 in direct payments to workers following the storm, with most going to people in the Edwardsville area.
The company did not give more detail about how many workers got payments.
“Our focus continues to be on supporting our employees and partners, the families who lost loved ones, the surrounding community, and all those affected by the tornadoes,” the company said in a statement this week.

The tornado victims ranged in age from 28 to 62 and lived around the St. Louis area.
The Edwardsville Community Foundation disaster fund was created in 2020 with the initial goal of providing local support to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, foundation executive director Pam Farrar told the Post-Dispatch this week.
Before the tornado, the foundation distributed about $140,000 in pandemic relief through the fund, one of more than 50 special-purpose funds managed by the organization providing scholarships and support for community projects.
After the tornado, the foundation quickly activated the disaster fund again for storm relief.
“I don’t know exactly how it happened that Amazon chose us, but our organization and its reputation of service was put forth,” Farrar said.
The foundation is taking applications from individuals, nonprofits and businesses in Madison County seeking relief from disasters through Friday. Municipalities can also apply for disaster related funding through March 25 from the foundation’s relief fund.
Farrar said there will likely be future funding cycles to distribute the money.
“This is a marathon, not a sprint,” she said.
The foundation’s board members have decided on several broad uses for the funding:
• Assistance to individual victims from disasters declared by government officials, including but not limited to the Dec. 10 tornado.
• Assistance to organizations who are financially distressed as a result of a disaster.
• Crisis counseling, rescue services or emergency disaster aid including blankets or meals.
• Support for disaster preparedness and recovery initiatives at local police, fire, public service and emergency management departments, including needed equipment or technology.
• Other long-term community needs as necessitated by future events or donations.
The foundation’s board is also planning to use part of the fund to create a lasting scholarship to Southern Illinois University Edwardsville for students with majors related to disaster preparedness or recovery.
Including the disaster fund, the foundation’s total assets have grown to about $4.3 million, Farrar said.
From 2016 through 2019 the organization’s annual average total assets were about $3.2 million, according to the most recent public financial disclosure forms.
Farrar said she hopes Amazon’s donation helps Edwardsville in the long term.
“It could have a major impact in our community,” she said. “How? I do not know yet, but what was great to see was that this community foundation was prepared to receive that size donation after the tragic event.”

The suit, filed by the family of Austin McEwen, claims Amazon put profits ahead of workers’ lives when a tornado struck last month.
The six killed in the Edwardsville tornado are:
• Etheria Hebb, 34, of St. Louis.
• Deandre S. Morrow, 28, of St. Louis.
• Kevin D. Dickey, 62, of Carlyle, Illinois.
• Clayton Lynn Cope, 29, of Alton.
• Larry E. Virden, 46, of Collinsville.
• Austin J. McEwen, 26, of Edwardsville.
McEwen’s family filed suit in January against Amazon as well as the developer and the builder of the warehouse.
McEwen was a delivery driver working as an independent contractor for a third-party company the night of the storm. The lawsuit alleges Amazon knew tornadoes were possible, failed to warn employees and failed to direct them to a safe shelter space.
Amazon has denied those claims.
Applications for grants and more information on the Edwardsville Community Foundation Disaster Fund can be found online at edwardsvillecommunityfoundation.org.
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Erin Heffernan is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
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Some worry that construction methods for such facilities were no longer appropriate for a climate expected to see more frequent tornadoes.
Crews work at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. At least six people died when a tornado hit the building late Friday night causing a partial collapse. Photo by Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com
Workers gather debris and move it into piles around damaged delivery vehicles at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. At least six people died when a tornado hit the building late Friday night causing a partial collapse. Photo by Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com
Crews work at an Amazon distribution center in Edwardsville on Sunday, Dec. 12, 2021. At least six people died when a tornado hit the building late Friday night causing a partial collapse. Photo by Daniel Shular, dshular@post-dispatch.com
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