Local groups are partnering together in hopes of making this a much brighter holiday by collecting Christmas ornaments to give to these survivors. United Way of Bradley County and the Salvation Army are joining with Cleveland/Bradley Disaster Relief Group and the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization to collect the decorative pieces and get them into the hands of those most in need.
“This year has been a challenging year for Bradley County, but those challenges have also brought out the best in our community ... neighbor helping neighbor,” said Matt Ryerson, United Way of Bradley County vice president of Community Investment Strategies. “This program is just one more example of our community reaching out to those in need.”
He added, “In the spirit of this giving season, the United Way is honored to participate in this wonderful event to help our survivors find their ‘New Normal.’”
The LTRO had already planned to ask those attending the Dec. 15 dedication of the Tim Garrett family home to bring an ornament for the family’s Christmas tree. At the same time, Cleveland/Bradley Disaster Relief Group organizers Steve Watson, of “Monster House” television show fame, and Suzanne Wisdom were looking at ways to help others as well. The two ideas came together.
Donated ornaments should be packaged and new ornaments are encouraged. However, if families wish to have their children create ornaments for these tornado survivors’ trees, they will be accepted and well-received.
It might be a great chance for families to get with their children and discuss helping others in times of need by creating a special ornament,” Ryerson added.
The organizations working on this project all want to make sure storm survivors have as nonstressful a holiday as possible.
“Although the storms of April 27 took away some homes and possessions, they didn’t take away the human spirit or the love of friends and family, or the need for Christmas cheer,” Watson said. “We can all pitch in to help these families have the best holiday season possible.”
LTRO has been working with families to make the holiday season special. With the assistance of Cormetech Inc., 20 children’s bicycles were made available to tornado survivors whose children may have lost their bikes in the storms.
“We appreciate everyone who has been helping the storm survivors over the past few months, and as we get closer to Christmas, it is extra special to see our community wish to make the holiday brighter for them,” said LTRO Case Manager Supervisor Lisa Mantooth. “Something as small as giving an ornament that they can hang on their tree can mean so much to these families.”
Mantooth will be identifying families to receive the ornaments.
Christmas is always a special time for the Salvation Army, and the local chapter is also involved in this endeavor. The Salvation Army’s Inman Street Coffeehouse is serving as a drop-off point for the ornaments, as well as the Distribution Warehouse on Barney’s Lane. The coffeehouse is open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily, and the Distribution Warehouse is open between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.
“This is an answer to a prayer,” said Sgt. Ruthie Forgey, corps administrator for the Salvation Army in Cleveland. “We provide special help to families through the Christmas season each year, but we have so many who lost everything in the storms so this will be a very special way we can help them through the holiday.”
She added, “As families and homes are being restored, our community continues to wrap them up with care and kindness. The Christmas ornaments that you donate are yet another example of our community’s generosity and willingness to see all our affected families enjoy the Christmas season.”
Suzanne Wisdom, one of the organizers of the Cleveland/Bradley Disaster Relief Group, added that they are continuing to look for ways to help those affected by the storms. “Hopefully, this drive will be one more thing the community can do to make this Christmas season special for these families,” she said.
The Cleveland Daily Banner, located on 25th Street, is also serving as a drop-off point for the ornaments, as well as the United Way of Bradley County offices on Ocoee Street.
“We have a deadline of Friday, Dec. 9, for the ornament donations so we will have ample time to get these into the hands of those who are decorating their homes for Christmas,” Ryerson said.