The Bradley County Commission was originally contacted regarding the donation, but has asked the United Way to oversee the funds.
The Commission also formed a committee to assess needs for the funds and determine how the money will be spent. Commissioners Jeff Yarber , J. Adam Lowe and Robert Rominger comprise the committee.
A preliminary list of needs which could be addressed with the donated money included helping specific families struggling with getting temporary housing. The list was compiled by the members of the committee by talking to people in the communities affected by the tornadoes.
The committee met with Matt Ryerson and Brenda Abel of United Way on Thursday to discuss the needs.
The committee talked about the list in terms of how much money would be needed for each item and passed conditional approval. The approval is pending final consideration by the donor. The initial needs discussed by the committee would allocate almost half of the money received.
Lowe said the Federal Emergency Management Agency may provide reimbursement for many of the needs the donation would meet. If this is the case, the money will be put in the Bradley County Tornado Relief Fund created to hold the donation until it is disbursed. Assistant to the Commission Amy Moore Moore said addressing these smaller needs is about connecting organizations to those in need.
Suzanne Wisdom of Court Appointed Special Advocates and Steve Watson, host of “DIY: Yard Attack” and a graduate of Bradley Central High School, were also at the meeting trying to learn how they could be a part of relief efforts.
Wisdom said the big problems are being addressed, but it is the smaller, more individual needs that remain unmet.
“Waterville Baptist is in dire need of Clorox bleach and C batteries,” Wisdom said.
Watson said many people do not realize debris removal can begin before their insurance company comes out. Watson, who now lives in Los Angeles, said he was encouraged by his personal experience of not seeing despair on the faces of those whose houses have been devastated.
Finding needs which have gone unmet has not been easy. This is not because the needs do not exist, but because residents of Bradley County are focusing on what they do have rather than what they need.
“We really had to twist their needs out of them ... for the most part. People aren’t out there for the most part looking for a handout, that we saw,” Moore said.
Lowe said he had to convince someone who needed help that it was all right to apply for FEMA assistance. Many individuals have asked him if FEMA will be providing trailers. Ryerson said FEMA was looking for land owned by Bradley County that was not in a flood plain.
Efforts to raise more money for the disaster relief fund are already under way.
Wisdom and Watson will be selling T-shirts during the “Relay for Life” relay-rally event tonight. Wisdom said many vendors at the event will be making food available to those affected by the storms. The event will be held downtown.