published Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Long-term recovery group formed

More than 490 Ringgold residents have registered with FEMA since an April tornado devastated the region, but several public leaders fear some of their needs will fall through the cracks.

That’s why about 60 Northwest Georgia community and business leaders are forming an organization focused on meeting those needs missed by the government and other organizations.

“If there’s one effort, everybody’s in there, everybody’s together,” Federal Emergency Management Agency representative Jerry Harfoot said.

Businesses, out-of-state charities and other donors tend to give to federally recognized organizations, so uniting under a single banner likely will draw more aid to Ringgold than several individual groups could, he said.

Though a united community is necessary to the long-term rebuilding of Ringgold, Harfoot said FEMA is the best place to start.

About $320,000 already has gone to individuals in the town. Harfoot hopes the funds will keep coming and said anyone affected by the storm needs to register with FEMA.

“You may not think that you need to. Well, I’m going to tell you, there may be a surprise down the road,” he said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve heard people say ‘I wish I’d registered.’”

But even those who register before the June 28 deadline sometimes find themselves caught short-funded as the rebuilding process drags on.

Mike Yoder, chairman of the North Georgia United Methodist Disaster Relief Committee, said the area already has a strong foundation of volunteers to see the community through its recovery and he hopes they’ll stick around as recovery continues.

“There has been a fantastic outcry by the people in the community,” he said. “It comes back for us community leaders and church organizations to see the community is taken care of.”

About six local leaders volunteered to develop the disaster committee — a group that would have been helpful were it in place weeks ago, and a group Yoder hopes will last when this disaster is over.

“I hope this committee lasts way past my death and way past your deaths,” he told the group. “If this committee is in place during the next disaster, that’d be great.”

Ron Tankersley, pastor of Crosspointe Church in Ringgold, said he’s not sure how long the organization will be around, but said it would have been great to have a few weeks ago.

Still, he wasn’t quite sure how well the organization would serve the community in the long term.

“This organization is needed,” Tankersley said. “How effective they’ll be remains to be seen.”

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