Immediately after five devastating tornadoes leveled much of the Bradley County community in late April, the most pressing needs of the community as a whole and its affected families became the priority.
The focus has now shifted to unmet needs.
As another major step in its commitment to lead Bradley County into its “new normal,” the Long-Term Recovery Organization today announced the first of five total home rebuild projects that have been approved and for which planning is already under way.
The Tim Garrett family will receive the first of five new homes that will be built from ground up using community donations from the Cleveland/Bradley Disaster Relief Fund.
“Lisa is on top of it,” Garrett told the Cleveland Daily Banner. He was referring to Lisa Mantooth, LTRO case manager supervisor.
“I believe she is even more excited than we are,” the Bradley County homeowner said.
At three months into the LTRO planning, board members felt they weren’t moving quickly enough to answer the needs of those families who were most affected by the storms that killed nine in Bradley County alone. But, Cleveland-Bradley County Emergency Management Agency Director Troy Spence assured the board that progress was being made and was on schedule.
LTRO’s approval of a complete rebuild of Garrett’s lost home is a boost for the local resident whose wife died in a car crash in 2000, leaving him to raise a son and daughter by himself. Also, Garrett is disabled.
After going through a rigorous screening and needs process, Garrett’s house is among five approved rebuilds. Mantooth said the screening and assessment process took about six weeks before LTRO could make today’s announcement.
Mantooth acknowledged she is excited, and is getting a personal fulfillment with the Garrett case, as well as many others, because she knows this will be just the first of several community announcements emerging from the LTRO’s work.
“It has still just been five months since the storms which affected so many lives in our county,” she said, “yet, we are working to meet the needs and rebuild.”
Like in many Bradley County family cases, Mantooth is taking her involvement to deep levels. In Garrett’s case, she has worked closely with the family in selecting types of siding, colors and paint. She considers it just part of her job as case manager supervisor, yet she also believes in going the extra mile in getting impacted families back on their feet.
In his Banner interview, Garrett reflected on the day of weather tyranny.
The Garrett home stood at 1974 Leadmine Valley Road. On April 27, he and his children kept an eye to the sky, heeding watches and warnings. Garrett’s sister lived on a hill nearby and the family walked up the hill to wait out warnings. They did this several times that day, according to Garrett.
“Then it came,” he said. “I could see debris, but it was dark and I couldn’t see our house or any damage,” Garrett explained.
Due to fallen trees and utility lines, Garrett didn’t survey any possible damage that night. It was the following day he observed that his family’s home was destroyed beyond repair. He had no homeowner’s insurance and FEMA provided little assistance.
“I was about ready to give up,” Garrett said. Then, his sister mentioned and contacted LTRO after a “Greenshirts” visit.
Families and individuals are still in shock over the tragedies of that day, according to Mantooth and other LTRO officials. In a gathering last week, the LTRO’s Unmet Needs Committee addressed needs of even more local families.
With the collaboration of Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland Inc. and KACE Construction, the Garrett rebuild is expected to begin within two weeks once all remaining paperwork and other formalities have been completed. Jim Polier, LTRO recovery leader, said the rebuild should be completed by Christmas. The Garretts will get a three-bedroom, two-bath home, completely handicapped accessible and finished.
“We are very pleased to be able to provide this home to the Garrett family,” Polier said. “We are also very excited as well about the first use of the LTRO and bradleydisasterrelief.org funds to be able to do this and see this family get back to their new normal.”
Polier said partnering with Habitat for Humanity is a good fit in Bradley County’s recovery. It is expected LTRO will partner with other organizations as well such as Men and Women of Action and Bradley Baptist Association.
“I am just very glad someone was looking out for us when I couldn’t look out for myself,” Garrett said. “I never expected a new house at all.”
Garrett, who “... wants to drive a nail or two at the construction site,” said this will be his first brand-new home.
Garrett said he is elated to be getting the new homeowner, and he credited the work of the LTRO and many Bradley County organizations, churches, businesses and individuals who have been directly involved in the post-storm efforts. As much as he will love his “new normal,” Garrett admitted he will miss the Leadmine Valley Road landscape whose vast forest of trees were obliterated by the deadly twisters.
But, like Polier and Mantooth, he is personally thankful to the Cleveland and Bradley County community which came together in unprecedented fashion in the wake of tragedy, and now has rejoined forces to meet the unmet needs of families who are struggling to rebuild their lives.