Ringgold's post-tornado recovery and rebuilding efforts received a major boost last week when the Frank Pierce Foundation made a $25,000 donation to the Catoosa Organization Acting in Disaster.
COAD was formed within days of the April 27, 2011, tornado to help the uninsured and underinsured rebuild their lives and homes.
The process of repairing, reroofing and rebuilding, even with an all-volunteer workforce, has been costly.
Donations to nonprofit COAD over the past 10 months have totaled slightly more than $500,000. During that same time the ongoing need to buy materials - nails and lumber, concrete and countertops, shingles and Sheetrock - had left the organization with less than $85,000 in its bank account.
That is why the Frank Pierce Foundation donation is so welcome.
"We're very pleased to help this community," said foundation trustee Steve Tarvin. "I appreciate what you are doing. We [the foundation] appreciate what you are doing and hope this small token will help."
Less than a month after the tornado ripped into Ringgold High School, the foundation generously donated $50,000 to that school's athletic and music departments. That money was used to help restore a stadium and to replace band instruments and equipment.
Trustee Wayne Peters said that during a visit to a nursing home he was given a firsthand account of how COAD was working to help rebuild the homes - and lives - of local residents.
"A lot of people care," he said.
In addition to the support of individuals and foundations, Catholic Charities USA has become a partner in the ongoing recovery efforts, particularly in helping cover expenses unmet by other agencies.
"Ringgold didn't call early on because the funding was good during the first months," said Ethel Higgins, disaster response coordinator for Catholic Charities Atlanta.
Higgins, who spent six months working working with tornado victims in South Georgia, said every affected area is different but a lot of needs remain.
"Catholic Charities is here for the long haul," she said.
Though registration for the Federal Emergency Management Agency's direct assistance ended months ago, FEMA remains interested and involved in local programs.
"We try to make sure those who suffer the greatest loss receive the most help," said Charles L. "Larry" Buckner, voluntary agency liaison for FEMA Region 4.
Buckner, who attended last week's COAD board meeting, complimented the group's holistic approach to meeting community needs and said groups like COAD are critical to a successful long-term recovery.
It is not uncommon to see survivors of the springtime storm who missed FEMA deadlines register for assistance that have expended all their own resources and are now in need of help, he said.
Buckner praised COAD's work in helping those affected by the tornado avail themselves of every possible resource for recovery.
"One thing for everyone to remember is that if there is a presidential declaration [of disaster], let us, FEMA, decide who qualifies for assistance," he said.