She will report to Jim Polier, who was named storm recovery leader in mid-July by members of the Long-Term Recovery Organization board.
Mantooth, who attended last week’s series of LTRO town hall meetings in four different neighborhoods, will begin her duties Monday.
“Lisa brings with her not only the experience of helping immediately after the tornadoes struck our area, but the skills to assist many in our community through her previous work,” according to Matt Carlson, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland who co-chairs the LTRO board.
He added, “[Lisa] is familiar with the Blue Springs community, but she also saw the needs in our entire community when she served as chapter executive of the local American Red Cross.”
Mantooth’s prior years of experience in leading the Hiwassee Chapter of the Red Cross equipped her for the carnage — and death — left in the wake of the five waves of tornadoes and storms that leveled many Cleveland and Bradley County neighborhoods, including her own, during the 12 hours of infamy on April 27.
Like thousands of other community residents, she is a survivor.
Mantooth and her family have lived in the Blue Springs community 14 years where they are an immediate neighbor to the longtime elementary school whose severe damage will prevent its reopening. The school will be demolished, and a new one will be built by Bradley County Schools.
Her decision to apply for the case manager supervisor position was based on the destruction she witnessed, as well as her familiarity and friendships with some of the Blue Springs area families who lost loved ones to the murderous tornadoes.
Mantooth’s home sits only about 200 yards from the leveled school; yet, the structure suffered only minor damage. At the height of the storms, and their immediate aftermath, she and her family helped devastated neighbors, many of whom had lost not just their homes but loved ones.
“I felt like, given my involvement during and after the tornadoes, that it was important to do this (apply for the case manager position), not just for me but for my family and community,” she said. “I felt like I needed to step up and help my community in its recovery. It is something I felt very passionate about.”
The lifelong Bradley County resident recognizes the community’s recovery is long-term.
“We have dear friends who have lost their homes ... and are in the middle of the rebuilding process,” she said. “In talking with them you go through every emotion.”
But Mantooth is also aware of another group of survivors, those who are just now getting started in their recovery three months after the killer storms. She said she learned of many of these cases during last week’s town hall meetings.
“A lot of people have been helped and have begun [their recovery] ... but there are those out there who have not and they need our help,” Mantooth cited. She said she is still learning reasons why some families have not started their recovery, but in some cases it’s because they have fallen through cracks in the communications loop.
The new case manager supervisor said she will do a lot of “listening” in the beginning to gauge people’s unmet needs. Meetings are already scheduled this week with Polier, the full LTRO board and with the “Green Shirt” assessment leaders who are in the community conducting on-site evaluations of recovery progress and identifying unmet needs.
“Green Shirts” is a nickname for relief workers representing the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee’s (CRWRC) Disaster Reponse Services team. Based in Grand Rapids, Mich., the Christian group is an international relief agency that works closely with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The group assists disaster-stricken communities not only across America, but also overseas.
Most recently, the “Green Shirts” have worked on the island nation of Japan during recovery efforts from this year’s earthquakes, tsunami and even a near core meltdown of a damaged nuclear plant. Domestically, CRWRC disaster relief teams are working in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee — all states that were hit by the April 27 tornado outbreak.
Mantooth served seven years as executive director of the local American Red Cross chapter. During this time, she supervised several employees and a large volunteer staff. She also operated the agency budget and served as the public information official.
After her years with Red Cross, she served with the Bradley County Juvenile Court’s Family Friends and CPI Program, and later as executive officer and chief operations officer with Psi Chi, an International Honor Society in Psychology based in Chattanooga.
For the past 15 months, she has worked part-time as receptionist and administrative assistant at the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
“I have worked with many different segments of our community both professionally and personally, and this experience with diverse populations has given me the ability to relate to people and make them feel comfortable with me,” Mantooth said.
In her paid, full-time role, Mantooth will supervise several volunteer case workers who will work directly with storm survivors. Mantooth also will personally handle several family cases. She said some of her role will be defined this week in meetings with Polier and storm recovery leaders.
Polier, who hit the ground running two weeks ago, praised Mantooth’s experience and her selection.
“I look forward to working with Lisa as we try to reach as many people in need as we can through our case management efforts,” Polier, a U.S. Forest Service retiree and veteran of two branches of the American military, said. “Lisa will be able to take the information that we are receiving at our town hall meetings, along with the information we are receiving from the needs assessment being performed now by the ‘Green Shirts,’ and help those who still need assistance.”
As with Polier, United Way of Bradley County is donating office space for Mantooth and conference facilities for storm recovery groups and volunteer case workers. United Way is located at 85 Ocoee St. S.E.
Carlson said he is pleased with Bradley County’s storm recovery progress and pointed to the importance of getting both Polier and Mantooth on board in full-time roles.
“We have heard from others that we are ahead of most communities in the planning stages for long-term recovery, and much of that is due to the work of folks like Jim and Lisa who actually began helping others in our area before we even formed the LTRO,” Carlson said.
He added, “To have these two, who not only helped from the start but who have already been touching the lives of those affected by the tornadoes, working with us is very special.”