More "uniting" needed to continue debris cleanup - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

More "uniting" needed to continue debris cleanup

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)--Since the April 27th tornado outbreak, the 2-1-1 call center at the Greater Chattanooga Area United Way has received more than 150 calls from people needing storm debris removed from their properties. The organization has teamed up with around eight church and private volunteer groups to help residents who are having trouble.

"[The] disabled, elderly, or [those who] just do not have the financial means," said Windy Brooks, associate director of the United Way's Volunteer Center.

Brooks said these groups have worked very hard clearing debris for about half of the people who have called, but the extent of the storm damage has resulted in a continued demand for volunteers even several weeks after the storms.

"We need to see if we can connect more groups to the residents that are on the list waiting," explained Brooks. 

One of those on the list is Vivian Centafont. Part of a 100 year old uprooted oak has acted as a sort of lawn ornament in front of her home in East Ridge. Neighbors sawed off half of the 85 foot behemoth, but their tools couldn't finish the job. So Centafont made the call to 2-1-1 in late May, but the United Way told her she would have to wait a bit longer.

"She called me back today and said that they were still trying to get volunteers to come out," said Centafont

Because the tree didn't damage her house or car, the cost of removal would have to come out of her pocket. Insurance will not cover it. At a possible $1000 for the service, this wasn't an option.

"Money doesn't grow on trees,' said Centafont. "And now the trees are gone."

There is no telling how long it will take to clear the unwanted memories of April's storms from everyone's properties, but according to Brooks it will simply take more hours of selfless effort from the tightly knit communities of the Tennessee Valley.

"We don't know how to predict when it will end," said Brooks.  "But we do continue to ask those who can help to help us."

If you have a group which would like to volunteer, or if you are an individual who would like to join on of the United Way's volunteer groups, please call the Volunteer Center at 423-752-0316.

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