As with all major undertakings of this magnitude, our community and its determined residents have bridged an array of pitfalls — piles of paperwork, some slow-responding insurance companies, unavailability of temporary housing, unlicensed contractors whose predatory ways create problems for all and coming to grips with tragic loss whose healing takes time.
Yet, the comfort of open arms provided by neighbors, churches, emergency organizations and caring individuals has brought our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown this far.
And now our journey continues.
Perhaps the most important step in our rebound since the completion of assessments by Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives and the naming of a full-time pair of recovery leaders (Jim Polier and Lisa Mantooth) is occurring Wednesday.
At 9 a.m. in the spacious Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce meeting room, the Unmet Needs Committee — an operative of the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization — will convene to hear a detailed report by Mantooth of area families who still face personal crises and unmet needs.
Her information will go far beyond the realm of any printed report. Its intent will be to pair those who still need help with those willing to give it.
It is hoped representatives of churches, agencies, businesses, industries, civic organizations, clubs and civic-minded individuals will attend the gathering to hear Mantooth’s information. Further, it is hoped these representatives will raise their hands as volunteers to pledge their groups’ support of these individuals or families in need.
Mantooth, whose team of trained case managers has canvassed the worst-hit neighborhoods while also conducting personal interviews in the field and the LTRO office, will not include family names in her report.
Instead, she will brief committee members and the audience only on actual case needs.
The idea is for attendees to adopt these individuals or families who are facing uphill battles in their struggle to regain a footing on their everyday lives.
Matt Ryerson, vice president of community investment strategies for United Way of Bradley County and who chairs the Unmet Needs Committee, told our newspaper the success of Wednesday’s meeting will depend on audience participation by those willing to lend a hand.
“Our hope is that every need identified by the hard work of Lisa’s team of volunteer disaster case managers will be met by the resources in that room on that day,” Ryerson told us.
It is an excellent direction, not just because it returns a sense of hope to those families in need but also because it guides organizations seeking to return to volunteer roles that were directly responsible for our community’s emergency response for the first few weeks following the tragic April 27 storms.
Too, Wednesday’s critical meeting is not just for organizations who have previously offered volunteer support. It is also for those wishing to enter this people-minded arena for the first time. According to Mantooth, many individuals have offered their continuing support over the past couple of months but haven’t understood how best to do it.
Wednesday’s meeting will show them how.
We urge attendance at this pivotal session.
Bradley County has come a long way since the late-April tragedy. But work remains.
And that’s the importance of this Unmet Needs gathering.
It is the next significant step in taking Bradley County to our “New Normal.”