May 11, 2012


It happened again! Almost a year from the time seven tornadoes tore through the north Georgia/ southeast Tennessee area in April of 2011, a series of storms again caused tornadoes that ripped through the northern part of Hamilton County and on into Bradley County. Police and fire radios, commercial radio and TV, as well as HAM radios were alive with reports of heavy damage, although there were no deaths being reported at that time.

March 3 (a Sabbath) dawned, and daylight revealed how destructive the tornadoes had been. Terry Haight, Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) coordinator for the Georgia-Cumberland Conference, visited the Emergency Operations Centers of both counties to offer ACS DR help. Bradley County had no need to open a warehouse or distribution center this time, but Hamilton County was going to, and asked ACS DR to assist in locating a building and then managing it.

In the meantime, the Samaritan Center, the ACS thrift operation on Ooltewah, Tenn., came by the ACS DR warehouse with their truck, which was then loaded with items to distribute to victims and volunteers by mobile distribution. The Center did mobile distribution for several days, processed casework for victims, and was an active member of the Long-term Recovery Committee again, making sure no one went without the help they needed by working in tandem with other volunteer agencies and with local, state, and federal authorities to accomplish that goal.

A location for a warehouse was located at the Hamilton County High School, near the damage-struck area, and was operated for six weeks. The warehouse served two distribution sites; the Greenwood Baptist Church and Open House, and Adventist group who organized volunteers and matched them with victims’ needs.

The warehouse served for six weeks, closing its operations when the distribution sites closed.

A target day was chosen to close, but on the last day of operation, a call came from a lady in Hanover, Penn., saying a motorcycle club there had done a collection and was sending a truck to us with their supplies. After consulting with Bill Tittle, Hamilton County operations chief, it was decided that since we were still set up to operate, we would accept the things, sort them, and find a home for them. On the appointed day for the load to arrive, we had a contingent of 12 prisoners to help unload the truck, which turned out to be three semis!

The warehouse finally got everything sorted and distributed, and closed the doors on May 10. It served 18 facilities with $61,233 worth of supplies. In addition, many more supplies that weren’t needed for the disaster went to local social service organizations, which serve people on a daily basis. This storm
hit a relatively well-to-do area, and many people were insured, so the need for donated goods was not as acute as the previous year. However, the ability to immediately begin distributing made possible by the cooperation with the Samaritan Center allowed this operation to be very effective.

Twelve volunteers logged 1,452 hours of volunteer time in this operation.