Rudi R. Scherff, the proprietor of the the Student Prince Cafe and The Fort Restaurant in Springfield, says he always wondered what a tornado would be like. Now that he knows, he says, he hopes it's his only such experience.
"Once was enough," Scherff said somberly last week. While the June 1 storms spared his family's restaurant, a Springfield institution, Scherff's neighbors in the nearby South End weren't so lucky. "We were in the path, but [the tornado] jumped at the last minute and hit five blocks south," Scherff told the Advocate.
In the weeks since the devastating tornadoes swept across the state, leaving three dead and property damage in the billions, Scherff has joined many other local businesses to help organize relief efforts. At the Sudent Prince/Fort, Scherff and his crew recently raised $4,500 for the Salvation Army, which is assisting in the relief effort in Springfield, Monson and other communities affected by the tornadoes. Looking ahead, the restaurateur is busy promoting an upcoming event sponsored by the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and the Greater Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau: Good Spirits: Hospitality Workers Rally for Western Massachusetts Tornado Relief. It will take place June 27 at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House from 6 to 10 p.m. "Every nickel spent at the event will go to the relief effort," Scherff said.
Scherff, a lifelong resident of Hampden County, says he's never seen anything like the destruction caused by the June 1 tornadoes, which hit Springfield at a particularly difficult time in its history, with the city facing already tough economic conditions.
"I think of this relief effort not just as a disaster," Scherff said. "It's also an opportunity and a challenge—one I think we can rise to meet."