published Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Cleveland groups, Whirlpool fulfill storm victims' needs

By Paul Leach/Correspondent
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    Left to right: Lisa Mantooth, case manager supervisor for the Long Term Recovery Organization, and Dr. Matt Ryerson, chairman of the Unmet Needs Committee, address an assembly of Cleveland, Tenn., church and community service representatives. Photo by Paul Leach
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Several community service organizations and churches have stepped up to provide for the immediate needs of 15 Bradley County families affected by the April 27 tornadoes.

In a Wednesday meeting with the unmet needs committee of the Long Term Recovery Organization, nearly 50 representatives of Cleveland's support groups eagerly competed for opportunities to help storm-affected families.

"What a great problem to have," said Dr. Matt Ryerson, chairman of the committee, of the fast-paced, auctionlike responses from church and community service officials who quickly divvied up the family projects.

Ryerson also announced "terrific news" that Whirlpool has agreed to provide appliances for families who have not been able to replace items lost in the storms. He said it was his understanding that the company's support will be ongoing, not just a one-time thing.

The result of Whirlpool's offer is that it reduced the current list of families with immediate needs by more than half, according to Ryerson.

Ryerson described families with immediate needs as those tending to have recovered a measure of home stability, but who still lack some core necessities such as beds, tables or even chairs. He said the unmet needs committee's goal is to get those families to "a new normal" as soon as possible.

Most of the family projects fell between an estimated $300 and $3,000, according to Lisa Mantooth, case manager supervisor for the recovery organization. All families were identified by a code letter to protect their privacy in the public meeting.

Mantooth assured the audience that the families had been thoroughly vetted to ensure that they were storm victims and that they already had pursued aid through insurance and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The next unmet needs committee meeting is set for Sept. 28.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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