FEMA moves out, COAD moves in

FEMA moves out, COAD moves in

June 1st, 2011 by Mike O'Neal in Catoosa


What: COAD (Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster), a group dedicated to helping matching those wanting to help and those needing assistance following the April 27 tornado, is hosting a public forum.

Where: Ringgold United Methodist Church, on Nashville Street/U.S. Highway 41.

When: Tomorrow, June 2, beginning at 7 p.m. The COAD board holds open meetings beginning at 11:30 a.m. each Monday at the Ringgold United Methodist Church.

To learn more about Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster, call (919) 909-7180.

To donate monetary donations to COAD to rebuild Catoosa County, send donations payable to Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster, P.O. Box 53 Ringgold, GA 30736 or donate online through PayPal at help@helpringgold.com.

Though the Federal Emergency Management Agency closed its Catoosa disaster recovery center last week, help is still available for those affected by the April 27 tornado.

The newly formed Catoosa Organization Acting In Disaster (COAD) will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. June 2 at Ringgold United Methodist Church to introduce its services to the community.

"A lot of churches and agencies are collecting material and money and have been doing good things," said Phil Ledbetter, head of the Catoosa Family Collaborative and chairman of COAD. "But there needs to be a local contact point, a clearinghouse for donations."

COAD is a local group formed to act as a go-between for those wanting to assist in recovery efforts and those in need. COAD volunteers are taking rebuilding requests from homeowners impacted by the tornado. The group of experienced volunteer home builders plans to re-roof 12 houses in Catoosa County this week.

"The intention of COAD is one effort working together to rebuild houses in Catoosa County," said RUMC pastor John Purrington, a COAD member. "The focus is meeting the unmet needs of uninsured and underinsured homeowners."

He said in Catoosa about 84 homes were destroyed and 539 homes were damaged by the recent tornado.

"We have made a lot of efforts to contact our neighbors," said Purrington of COAD. "We know insurance money will not be enough for homeowners to rebuild. We need residents to identify that they need help."

Equally important is providing a resource for people that sustained losses due to the storm and who are leery of contacting federal officials, agencies or individuals that they regard as strangers.

"People want to deal with someone they can trust," Ledbetter said, saying COAD is a group of Catoosans helping Catoosans.

Martha Eaker, president of the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, said getting residents whose homes were damaged to ask for help has been hard. It might be due to pride, ongoing wrangling with insurance companies or just because they feel overwhelmed. Whatever the reason, they need to act - and quickly.

"We have [reputable] roofers, builders and other tradesmen that are willing to work," Eaker said.

Not only can COAD offer names of trustworthy contractors, it also has been contacted by organizations and groups offering either free labor and building supplies or making monetary donations to secure more building materials.

Ledbetter said people had not realized money from FEMA, GEMA and their insurance companies might not cover the rebuilding costs. COAD is not handing out cash, but operates like case workers to review the needs of anyone who could use some help.

"Our biggest concern now is that when people do decide what they want to do there may be no resources available," Eaker said.

COAD's members are aware that volunteers and charitable organizations can only be in the Ringgold area for a limited time before they move on to help other communities following other catastrophes.

"We have a group of Mennonites and Amish that are coming who can build or repair 20-30 houses in a very brief period of time," Ledbetter said. "There is only a narrow window of time when they can be here and so far we've only had about five families commit to rebuilding."

Ledbetter said COAD does not need bottled water, clothes or cleaning supplies. Instead he asked that citizens donate building materials and monetary donations for building supplies. He said so far donation pledges total $180,000, but he hopes COAD will raise $500,000 to help homeowners rebuild their homes.

"We can build homes that span 980 to 1,400 square feet," said Ledbetter. "We are trying to get organized to help people get back in their homes. We tell people to use their FEMA money and we will help supplement that."

Staff Writer Katie Ward contributed to this story.