Charities helping storm victims pay utilities
BRADLEY COUNTY, TN. (WRCB) -- Those left with nothing after the storm are coming to the relief center in Bradley County for help.
Volunteers are trying to fill just about every need you can think of.
Friday, storm survivors are also getting help paying off some of their expenses.
Imagine living in a hotel for an entire month with no home to go to, but the bills keep coming.
That's what happened to one Bradley County couple. Their home was hit by an EF-4 tornado.
Insurance will take care of the house, but the bill for broken water line is on them.
For Ginny and Ernest Ravnell Friday was the breaking point. For the first time since a tornado turned their Cleveland home to rubble the couple finally asked for help.
"I've talked to FEMA," says Ernest Ravnell. "There wasn't anything they could do for us because we have homeowners insurance."
They've spent the last 30 days in a hotel which their insurance company is paying for, but getting through all the paperwork to a settlement takes time.
"Just a long waiting process," Ravnell says.
Meanwhile, bank accounts run dry while bills keep coming in.
"This is a Wal-Mart gift card for $50," says Christine Willingham to Ravnell. "What we're gonna do is pledge $100 toward your water bill."
Like many other victims, the EF-4 tornado that hit Ravnell's home also broke water lines. That's why Catholic Charities of East Tennessee has been collection donations specifically for utility bills.
"Different organizations have done different things," says Willingham who works as a site coordinator for the charity. "I know some of the utility companies have given people a break on their bill. Some of them have not."
Catholic Charities is also giving out Wal-Mart gift cards.
"We came out and have cleaned up most of the rubbish," Ravnell says. "We still got a lot more to do."
In the face of such devastation, deciding the next move can be the hardest for victims.
"I don't know if we're going to rebuild," he says. "We're just undecided. We're still in after shock. Everyday we go around, it's just a mess."
Many utility companies are working to reduce or waive fees for storm victims, so make sure you check with your company before seeking private help.
Catholic Charities does require photo ID, and a current bill from applicants. To find out more visit www.ccetn.org or call 423-826-0663.