Disaster relief still needed

Disaster relief still needed

June 22nd, 2011 in Local Regional News

The greatest need now spiraling out of the April 27 tornado that touched down in Apison is help with clearing and hauling debris.

"By far, the biggest need is still clearing of land; with downed trees and so forth it's a concern as we go into dry weather," said Tony Dahlberg, executive director of the Samaritan Center, which recently hosted a community needs-gathering and informational meeting. "Then you've got everything from building back barns and fences for cattle, rebuilding homes, things like that."

Hamilton County Emergency Services Chief of Emergency Management Bill Tittle said Apison was the county area hardest hit. Of the 56 homes destroyed countywide, 36 were in Apison.

Hamilton County Mayor Jim Coppinger said county crews will continue to pick up brush and debris hauled to roads' public right of way. Tires may also be left by the roadside for pickup. With both, the closer to the road the better. The right of way extends 30 feet from the center line.

"Don't expect it to be every single day," Coppinger said of the pickups. "We will make passes back through."

Residents are never allowed to burn tires. Brush can be burned at this time, but only after obtaining a burn permit by contacting the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Air Pollution Control Bureau.

Questionnaires turned in at the meeting revealed one local resident with 20 acres of downed trees, and many more who need stump removal.

"If we can find somebody who's got a dozer that wouldn't charge us regular dozer fees but maybe volunteer it for the cost of fuel, those types of things we can look at with our resources to help offset costs," Dahlberg said.

His center has received monetary donations from all over the region earmarked for disaster relief. He is working with other area organizations to collect needs and provide help accordingly.

The United Way is acting as a clearinghouse for the identification of unmet needs and assignment of resources to meet them. It is also part of a recently established countywide long-term recovery committee.

"I think right now it's difficult for people to know what they need to do to help with the next steps," said United Way's Building Stable Lives Director Eileen Robertson-Rehberg. "The better we can define that, the better we can match resources to people's needs. We're aware your needs are changing all the time. Regardless of what it is, if it's unmet, please let us know."

Dahlberg recommends contacting both United Way and the Samaritan Center. Needs received by United Way will not only be compiled for immediate assistance, but also for a long-term recovery plan that can be used in future situations.

"I'm not going to promise you you'll get everything you want, but I will promise we will do everything we can to get your life back to normal as soon as possible for the long haul," said Tittle.

He said money was just approved for a full-time case worker to be dedicated to recovery efforts as part of the long-term committee. This person will be a face to United Way's 2-1-1 call-in service. Rather than simply phoning in needs and receiving the name and number of the best organization to call, or having a volunteer group assigned to your case, the case worker will meet with individuals who are not having all their needs met by other resources.

Regardless, officials stressed the importance of calling all needs into 2-1-1. Volunteers are also encouraged to call in or visit the website for an ongoing list of opportunities to help.

Area pastors and counselors are already seeing many who just need someone to talk to, which could become greater as people shift from focusing on the immediate, pressing issues.

"Sometimes it's not just the house, car or barn that got broke; sometimes stuff in here got broke," said counselor Liane de Souza, putting her hand to her chest. "That needs to be fixed in order to fix everything else. Remember, it's not just you. If you've got a child acting out more than normal they're probably suffering just as much as you."

She encourages those who need it to seek that help by finding a willing ear.

"The local churches are here to help," said pastor Todd Chancey, of Apison United Methodist Church.