There was a big turnout for Saturday’s Day of Service project in Cleveland and Bradley County. Volunteers turned out to answer the lingering need for debris cleanup across the community from tornado damage a year ago, and from the more recent storm which left damage behind in March.
Activities were coordinated by Cleveland Cleanup and Cleveland Action Network (CAN).
Laura Mountain, who launched the Cleveland Cleanup organization in January; Connie Wright, district relief director for the Cleveland District of the United Methodist Church; and Joanne Maskew of Keep America Beautiful joined together to monitor volunteers who stepped up Saturday at the old Food City grocery store on APD 40.
The threesome had more than 25 volunteers within an hour, directing them to several worksites around the community. The coordinators expected as many as 200 volunteers through the day.
Wright said there were plenty of work locations around the city to choose from. “We have more than 100 opportunities,” she said as she displayed a listing of sites where the tornadoes struck (in 2011 and 2012), and where debris remains today.
Oliver Minor and Ed and Christine Bennett were the first three volunteers to sign up at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. They were dispatched to Blue Springs Lane South of APD 40, where Ernest Smith’s home suffered extensive damage in 2011. Smith lost his daughter in the tornado, and has been too emotional to do a lot of cleanup work.
The homes of Tiffany Lloyd in the Wilbrook Subdivision, and Nicki Whittaker on Fairview were additional worksites selected later in the morning.
There was a wide assortment of volunteers who showed up Saturday, including congressional candidate Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga. Gardenhire was commended for wielding a chainsaw at other cleanup efforts.
Saturday’s cleanup included individuals, small groups, family groups and large collections of people. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints organized a group of 70 to 100 volunteers with Don Forquer serving as the team’s leader.
There were some volunteers who were assigned to worksites prior to Saturday’s APD 40 sign-up. One of these groups went to the home of 88-year-old Henry Watson. His structure at 2520 Candies Lane was destroyed in the March tornado and Watson has been unable to do any work because of health concerns.
One of the most touching moments of this Day of Service was a family group that registered early in the morning on APD 40.
Mike and Kayci Glasgow came out to help with their two young daughters, Tsavo and Shiloh. The Glasgows lost their 3-month-old son in the April 27, 2011, tornadoes. The family joined a First United Methodist Church group, led by Don Wood, at the Ken Price home on Norwood Lane.
The Glasgows wanted to stay together during Saturday’s cleanup, despite the fact service was available to watch young children while their parents worked.
Mike Glasgow told sign-up coordinator Connie Wright that his girls had talked about the family’s loss. He said they commented, “He was the best brother ever. We never had a brother before!”
It was also a very emotional time for Henry Watson as volunteers worked to clean up the massive debris at his home on Candies Lane. Wiping tears from his eyes, he put the impact of the disaster into plain terms, saying it’s hard to think about. “They say it’s all a loss, but I still have my life,” he said as he rested under a patio umbrella in front of his destroyed home.
Watson said it was not the first time he has lost a home. He had a home in Polk County which burned when he was away working at the Kingston Steam Plant years ago. He said that fire was purposely set.
Watson is an oldtime Polk County resident. Earlier in life he served as the chief deputy sheriff, and later was Polk County tax assessor for eight years. In addition to working at the Kingston Steam Plant, he helped build the Watts Bar Nuclear Power Plant.
Watson’s wife died about three years ago, and he has been living by himself at the Candies Lane address. He said he was fortunate not to be in the home when the March storm struck. “I went over on U.S. 411 to get a pizza,” he said.
Asked what he is going to do about the home, Watson said he isn’t sure. He did voice appreciation for the volunteer help Saturday, which hopefully will keep his demolished home from being an eyesore until he decides.
“I’m going out West in July to see the rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyo.,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed rodeos, and this will give me some time to think (about his future).”
Volunteers who signed up for Saturday’s Day of Service were from all walks of life. They came to help local residents struck by tragedy.
One of the volunteers was Mark Brewton of Dixie Court. Crewton’s home was also damaged and he still faces cleanup needs. Saturday he joined the community effort.
Three teenagers from Chattanooga’s Notre Dame High School signed up, along with cheerleaders from Cleveland High. There were a number of family groups, adults and children, who participated.
Laura Mountain, who is campaigning for a Bradley County Board of Education seat from the 1st District, talked about her Cleveland Clean Up organization.
The organization’s motto was printed on T-Shirts. It tells the story of this Day of Service, stating, “I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then, I realized I am somebody.”
Mountain says the group is trying to keep it simple. “We’re a volunteer-base group,” she said. “The more people we have, the more clean up.” To reach the organization you can go to Clevelandcleanup,com. The organization can also be found on Facebook.
The debris collected during Saturday’s Day of Service was piled by the roadway and will be picked up this week by volunteers.
A number of the tornado victims participated in Saturday’s cleanup, others did not. “It’s so emotional for some that they just can’t do it,” said Wright.