Since its beginning following the storms of April 27, 2011, the Bradley County Long-Term Recovery Organization has helped hundreds of families, been involved in many home builds and home repairs, and helped lead those affected by the storms of 2011 and 2012 find available assistance.
Many have not only utilized the resources, but many have also donated funds to the LTRO to help others. With a grant made available by United Way of Bradley County in 2012, all of these donations go directly into helping those storm survivors.
“The grant has made a significant difference,” said LTRO Recovery Director Jim Polier. “When we talk to those who are contributing to the LTRO, we are able to say that 100 percent of those funds are going to helping people and not to administrative costs.”
Since Aug. 1, 2011, when the Case Management portion of the LTRO was created, 123 families from the April 27, 2011, storms have been served. Seven families have been referred to counseling. Twelve repairs — including roofs, wheelchair ramps, and septic tanks — have been completed and six are in process. Dozens of other referrals for assistance have been given to storm survivors.
There have been four home builds completed and dedicated, with the fifth home dedication scheduled for this Friday at 4 p.m. at the Yarber home on Lead Mine Valley Road.
LTRO case managers work with the families to determine the exact needs.
“For me, serving in this position has been rewarding because I have been able to see the 15 volunteers who serve as case managers creating relationships, and friendships, with these survivors,” said LTRO case manager supervisor Lisa Mantooth.
“It has been so special to see the joy in these people’s faces, both the survivors and case managers, throughout the process.”
Mantooth and Polier are the only two staff members of the Long-Term Recovery Organization, but they are by far not the only individuals in the community to work with the group. Along with the case managers, the LTRO has worked with many volunteers in the community, and outside Bradley County, to help these survivors.
Sometimes, people aim praise for what has taken place toward us (the LTRO), but it is really everyone involved in the process who deserve the praise,” Polier said. “It really takes a lot of people to make this happen.”
Polier has experience in working with victims during stints with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Services following Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav. He has seen others volunteering to help those in need, but said he is still amazed at how dedicated this community is to think of others before themselves.
“We have a great group of people come into our area and help, and we can’t say enough about the way they poured their hearts into this community with their compassion,” he said.
“We have also seen so many here in Cleveland and Bradley County take the time to help these survivors … and we continue to see that help even today.”
“Bradley County is different from any area in the world, and I strongly believe that,” Mantooth added.
“I have never in my life seen companies and individuals, organizations and businesses step forward like they do in Bradley County. We are a community of service and because of that make up, that is why we are where we are in this recovery process.”
Both Polier and Mantooth have been present at each home build dedication, and are very pleased to see the Yarber family will be moving into their home this month. They admit it will be a melancholy dedication, in a sense, as the Yarbers lost their daughter Lisa in the April 27, 2011 storm that struck Bradley County.
“I do cry for the families for their losses, and have a special feeling for families like the Yarbers who lost a loved one,” Mantooth said, “but I also cry for those who are moving into their new homes. I get emotional because I know how much this means to them.”
Mantooth is responsible for helping families meet their needs that often do not include a new home, or even major home repairs.
“I often go shopping with families to get furniture, such as a bed, for their home because they lost these pieces of furniture in the storms,” she said.
“I get emotional, and I often cry when I go with them and know just how much this bed, or a mattress, will mean to them. But they are happy tears.”
Polier said each project is very special to him, but he is especially grateful for the help that the LTRO and others have provided when children are involved.
“ What touches me is when I see the children moving into these new homes and the joy and the thrill that they have,” he said. “Some of the children are reserved, but you can still see that excitement in their faces.”
United Way’s Vice President of Community Impact Patrick Long said this area is known for its compassion for others, and the LTRO is displaying that empathy through its work with those in need.
In the weeks following the storms of April 27, volunteers and caring citizens came out of the woodwork to clear trees, prepare food, and do whatever they could to help,” he said. “The Long-term Recovery Organization is an extension of that effort and has done an incredible job.
The diligence and commitment of the LTRO staff has made a marked difference in the lives of those they have helped. They have been the lynchpin of the recovery effort and it has been the United Way’s privilege to partner with them to conduct this vital work,” Long added.
This week is a week of remembrance for the victims and survivors of the April 27, 2011 storms, and a week of recognition to those who have been involved since the tornadoes struck that day in helping those survivors.
“We thank you for helping us help others, and we want to thank those volunteers in our community and those who came to our aid, for what they have done,” Polier said. “From the Long-Term Recovery Organization, we are proud to be working with all of you.”
If you have any questions about the LTRO, you may contact Polier or Mantooth at the United Way of Bradley County offices at (423) 479-2020.