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Jackson/DeKalb Long Term Recovery Committee reaches out to area residentscomment (0)

September 1, 2011

By Carrie Brown McWhorter

Facing its third disaster recovery effort in three years, the Jackson/DeKalb Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) is proving that a private-public partnership can effectively help residents in a time of need.

The LTRC began in 2008, when an EF4 tornado cut a 10-mile path of damage in the Pisgah/Rosalie area of Jackson County on Feb. 6.

“It didn’t make national news, but for this area, it was pretty dramatic,” said David Patty, Sand Mountain Baptist Association director of missions.

That tornado destroyed 44 homes. The committee, then known as the Sand Mountain LTRC, brought together representatives of Sand Mountain Association and the Upper Sand Mountain Parish (United Methodist Church) as well as directors of county agencies, including the Jackson County Emergency Management Agency and Department of Human Resources, and the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and local fire departments and mayors. The committee organized volunteer teams and donations, and 14 families received help rebuilding their homes.

On April 10, 2009, an EF3 tornado hit the communities of Powell, Macedonia and Sylvania, and the LTRC saw the need once again. This time, officials and agencies from DeKalb County were involved, including DeKalb Baptist Association. In the following months, the committee helped build eight homes.

Then came April 27 and the massive destruction all over north Alabama. Patty admitted that those who had volunteered with the LTRC in the past, including him, felt overwhelmed.

“We were all pessimistic. Ninety-eight percent of the damage was on Sand Mountain — 424 homes completely destroyed and 379 heavily damaged,” he said.

The committee did not do anything for the first month, Patty said, because teams were still cutting trees and digging homes out of the rubble. After that first month, a few volunteers got together and discussed the possibility of putting together a joint committee for both counties —and it worked.

“All the county representatives were there from both counties, and we agreed to blur the county line,” Patty said.

The committee began meeting weekly at Northeast Alabama Community College in Rainsville, located on the border of the two counties, which Patty said was symbolic of the unity it was seeking.

Volunteers serve as caseworkers under the direction of Tayna Rains, director of the Upper Sand Mountain Parish.

Each caseworker goes into the community to interview families and help them with the proper paperwork. The caseworkers meet on Thursday to review applications for assistance, and then applications are presented to the full LTRC on Tuesday.

The committee considers federal assistance and insurance payments as it decides how to allocate funds. Many requests are for volunteer labor, Patty said.

He said the storm-damaged area has been blessed with help. Teams from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia and other parts of Alabama have already come or are scheduled to come through October. So far, 84 cases have been approved, and 14 of those are complete rebuilds. The approved cases also include requests for appliances and furniture.

The committee received $120,000 from the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham’s Bama Rising Fund, which came from the proceeds of the Bama Rising Concert held June 14 and organized by the Fort Payne-based country music group Alabama. But financial donations are still needed, Patty said.

Building teams are still needed as well, he said. Volunteers of all skills levels are needed to help with construction projects. Coordinators are available to help volunteers arrange food and lodging during their stay. For information about volunteering, call Roger Haney at 256-451-7179.

For general information, call Sand Mountain Association at 256-451-3750.

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