Thousands of volunteers help storm victims, more help needed - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

After The Storm: One Year Later

Thousands of volunteers help storm victims, more help needed

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(WRCB) - Volunteers from across the country joined many of you to sort through the devastation and start rebuilding after last year's storms.

They provided thousands of dollars' worth of labor and supplies. Volunteers have logged thousands of hours helping tornado victims.

A year later, survivors still need help.

This is how Lee Wilson has spent his days for the past nine months. He's rebuilding the home an EF-4 tornado destroyed April 27, 2011.

"Picked up the house, threw it about 15 feet," Lee says. "You see your life in shambles as far as where you're living.  You're like, 'what am I going to do?'"

In the hours and days after the storms, volunteers poured into the ravaged communities.

They began with the basics.

"Do you need water?  Do you need meals?" Lee recalls the earliest conversations with the volunteers.

And later they helped the survivors clear debris and rebuild.

"Helping me install windows, helped finished the framing," Lee says.

About 10,000 volunteers from as far away as California and Maine have come to Apison to help with the cleanup and rebuilding efforts.  But they still need volunteers.

There is still work to do.

"It comes down to community volunteers and faith-based organizations," says Doug Walter with Open House Ministries.

Doug Walter and Jojo Macatias work with Open House Ministries, an organization that helps coordinate volunteers with job sites. 

They say even the smallest task can make a big impact.

"A lot of times it's nothing more than talking to people or helping them paw through stuff," Doug says.

"If you can cover a 10x10 square foot of debris, that's one less step the homeowner has to figure out what they can do," Jojo adds.

You don't need any special skills.  Volunteer groups can find a job for anyone who wants to help.

"All it takes is two hands, two feet," says Macatias, "just a heart willing to go out."

Even though each day's work brings Lee Wilson one step closer to moving in, he knows there's more to do. "We've had a lot of volunteers and we've always appreciated that. Right now, we still need volunteers to finish.

"You're still in the process of recovering until you have grass growing in your yard," Lee says.

The need for volunteers is still great, especially in the wake of the March second tornado.

You can sign up by calling United Way's 211 service. The agency will match you with an organization and work site.

Even 30 minutes can make a huge difference.

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