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Local residents, agencies assist tornado victims
Hundreds of volunteers across Southeast responded to the devastation
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Red Cross volunteer Ann Valverde, working in the Gainesville office of the Red Cross, finds information for a tornado victim in Rabun County. - photo by Tom Reed

Donate

Red Cross: Call 770-532-8453 or visit www.negaredcross.org
Salvation Army: Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY, visit www.salvationarmy.org or text "GIVE" to 80888 for a $10 donation
North Georgia Community Foundation: Mail a check to 615 F Oak St., Suite 1300, Gainesville, GA 30501, or visit www.ngcf.org
Ringgold High School: Donate cash or supplies during car washes put on by the Flowery Branch High School National Honor Society. They'll be held 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 24-25 in the school's parking lot down from the cafeteria outside of the large gym.
Floyd County victims: Gainesville First United Methodist is accepting items requested by those in Floyd County in northwest Georgia: deodorant, soap, razors, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sunscreen, female hygiene products, diapers, baby wipes, hand sanitizer, towels, washcloths, toilet paper, paper towels, cleaning supplies, gloves, storage bins, sports drinks and water.

Leave donated items in the collection areas in the Gathering Room, the entrance to the Methodist Activity Center or in the hallway behind the sanctuary. Checks also are accepted with "tornado relief" in the memo line.

Volunteer

The Georgia Emergency Management Agency/Homeland Security is hosting Georgia Volunteer Saturday to help clean up areas of the state affected by the tornadoes.

Volunteers should expect to remove debris, rake yards, cut trees and help with general cleanup. They should wear work clothes and sturdy gloves, bring tools such as chainsaws, hammers, hats and goggles along with sunscreen, food and water. Check-in is at 8 a.m. at volunteer coordination centers across the state.


Dade County: 5 Case Ave., Trenton
Floyd County: 300 West 3rd St., Rome; contact drc@floydcounty.net or 706-291-5144 to register or for more information
Lamar County: 100 Commerce Place, Barnesville
Meriwether County: 120 West Perry St., Manchester
Spalding County: 819 Memorial Drive, Griffin; 9 a.m. start time at this location
Catoosa County: 7484 Nashville St., Ringgold; call 706-935-2109 or 706-935-2199 before coming

On April 27, tornadoes ripped through the Southeast killing more than 300. The next morning, Dahlonega resident Taylor Wallace with the American Red Cross was in Pickens County assessing the damage.

"If you could imagine a big open field with a couple big lawn mower paths just going through, that's what it looked like," he said Thursday. "Everything that was in the path of the tornado was just destroyed."

Hundreds of other volunteers with various agencies dispersed across the Southeast in response to the devastation.

Lt. Matt Cunningham with the local branch of the Salvation Army was in Ringgold on Wednesday.

"We're seeing a steady stream of people come in for drinks, water, snacks to keep them going," he said. His crew left Gainesville early Tuesday morning to relieve a group that had been working in the area since the storms hit.

Dawson County Sheriff's Capt. Tony Wooten also was in Ringgold, joining other law enforcement in an effort to patrol the affected area.

"It was total destruction everywhere you turned," Wooten said. "Total disaster. Most of the businesses and houses ... they're going to have to start completely over."

In Catoosa County, Capt. Jason Dooley with the Dawson County Emergency Services was part of a team searching for survivors. He said he's worked several storm cleanups.

"But this by far was the worst damage ... the worst destruction I've ever seen," he said.

Disaster on such a large scale demands a response just as overwhelming.

For agencies like the Red Cross, this response is their business. Volunteers like Wallace determine what the needs are. People, supplies and food are then funneled to where they're needed most. Those in offices like the one in Gainesville help victims by phone, answering any questions they have and getting them the help they need.

According to Philip Reed, executive director with the Northeast Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross, 570 homes in Georgia were destroyed, 606 suffered major damage and assessment was still going on in Rabun County a week after the storms hit.

Reed said Tuesday the Red Cross had served more than 12,300 meals to date and dispensed more than 350 supply kits with blankets and basic toiletries. Shelters also were up in Rabun, Catoosa and Meriwether counties in Georgia.

"When someone has something that horrible happen, it's hard for them to think about all the things that they need to look after in their life," said Wallace, who is chairman of the board of directors for the Northeast Georgia Chapter of the Red Cross. "It feels good that we're up there to provide a little bit of relief, financial relief, a place for them to stay so at least immediately they don't have to worry about that; they can focus on putting the pieces of their life back together."

Organizations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army depend on donations. Money, supplies and volunteered time are crucial.

The North Georgia Community Foundation has activated a disaster relief fund for those affected by the tornadoes.

Area churches like Gainesville First United Methodist also are doing their part. The church is accepting toiletries and cleaning supplies requested by those in Floyd County in northwest Georgia. They're also taking checks with "tornado relief" in the memo line.

At Flowery Branch High School, the National Honor Society is planning a car wash to raise money to aid the high school in Ringgold. They'll take cash donations along with supplies for the victims. They're also doing a silent auction at the school to raise money.

Bethanie Henry, a paraprofessional at Spout Springs Elementary School, asked teachers for help collecting items.

"I put out a call for help and have been overwhelmed with the response," she wrote in an email. "I think we have enough notebook paper and pencils for their whole student body to make it the rest of the year!"

A group will load a truck with the items on Saturday to deliver to Ringgold.

Every little bit counts, said Ben Conyers of Murrayville.

He had a couple of boxes of clothing to donate to the victims.

"Let's help these poor people," Conyers said. "If it'd hit Gainesville I'd be doing the same thing."

Times regional staff writer Frank Reddy contributed to this report.

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