published Sunday, May 8th, 2011

Disaster relief

FEMA mitigation specialist Pedro Gazmey, left, talks with Windy Bond, center, and her fiance Wayne Sorrels on Saturday at the disaster center on the campus of Southern Adventist University in Collegedale.
Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press
FEMA mitigation specialist Pedro Gazmey, left, talks with Windy Bond, center, and her fiance Wayne Sorrels on Saturday at the disaster center on the campus of Southern Adventist University in Collegedale. Staff photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press

NAPOLITANO VISIT

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is expected to visit Ringgold today to talk with local residents and officials and view tornado damage, according to a Homeland Security news release. Her office did not provide a time or an intinerary for her visit.


HOW TO REGISTER

FEMA most often helps with costs related to basic living necessities such as temporary housing for the displaced, replacement equipment such as refrigerators, and rebuilding costs for destroyed homes. They also commonly help with medical and burial costs. To register for FEMA aid, visit an office, log on to www.fema.gov or call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) with the following information:

• Social Security number

• Insurance policy number

• The stage of your insurance claim

• List of storm-related damage

A complete list of area FEMA offices is on Page A9. Make sure to bring a photo ID when visiting an office.

Eight-year-old Saylor Bond sat looking down at a coloring book, quietly swinging her legs while her mom and future stepfather registered Saturday for FEMA aid.

The family’s horse farm near Candies Creek wasn’t damaged too badly. Their horses all made it, and they lost just a few trees and fence posts. Still, they could use some help, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides grants for disaster-related expenses not covered by insurance.

Four FEMA offices are already set up in Southeast Tennessee, and six more are planned to open soon. Since opening Thursday, the Collegedale office has helped more than 110 people get financial aid and, in some cases, counseling.

After sitting with her daughter, praying as a tornado shook their house, Bond said she has gotten nervous when she feels a strong gust of wind. And it’s been even harder on Saylor, she said.

“She’s way traumatized by this. We’re getting her help; she’s got counseling,” said Saylor’s mother, Windy Bond. “I’m going to counseling.”

FEMA mitigation specialist Pedro Gazmey said that’s typical of the storm victims he’d seen so far.

“These folks right here, they’re still shaking. They’re nervous,” Gazmey said. “Most of the people coming in here, their houses are totally destroyed.”

Saylor wants to train horses like her mom some day. With her freckled nose, straight brown hair and a couple crooked baby teeth, she certainly looks the horse girl part.

When she starts talking about the animals it’s hard to get her to stop. Her face lights up and she throws her arms around with excitement. But ask about the tornado that destroyed her neighbors’ roof and caused her house to shake, and she quiets down immediately.

“I’m still kinda scared,” she said. “I’ve run away three times.”

So far the FEMA offices haven’t been overwhelmed, but Gazmey said that in his seven years with the agency, lines sometimes stretch out the door.

He also said that can be a good thing. Gazmey encouraged everyone affected by the storm to register with FEMA as quickly as possible, even those without extreme damage.

FEMA can’t address all storm victims’ needs alone. Their offices are staffed with representatives from agencies such as the Red Cross and the Small Business Administration, which provides long-term, low interest loans to disaster victims.

As of now, the centers are open indefinitely and more than $100,000 has been designated to help with storm relief in the Southeast. The more people who register, the longer the offices can stay open and the more money the area is likely to receive.

“We want to help, but if they don’t come here they’re tying our hands,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your social position. We help everybody.”

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