published Monday, May 9th, 2011

Rhea leader pushing positive outlook for county after storms

By Kimberly McMillian

RHEA COUNTY, Tenn. — Keeping a positive attitude will propel the county forward as many residents begin rebuilding their lives after the storms, Rhea County Executive George Thacker said.

“Think of the positive,” Thacker said Thursday. “We’ve lost a lot of property, but not a lot of lives.”

On April 27, severe storms damaged or destroyed at least 70 homes in the Graysville, Dayton and Spring City areas, Thacker said. There is no current estimate of the dollar amount of damage.

Residents of Rhea and Bledsoe counties were added to the federal disaster list last week to receive Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance.

Thacker said the Rhea County Interfaith Disaster Relief Team, a committee of county leaders, pastors and volunteers, had met to evaluate how it could offer its assistance to families.

The relief team members met Monday at the Spring City Municipal Building and on Friday at the Walden’s Ridge Baptist Church in Dayton, Tenn.

Randy Schmittendorf, a relief team member, said they established the panel to help victims of Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and had reactivated it to help surviving families in the area.

Local churches also have adopted families to assist, said Daryl Smith with The Family Church in Dayton.

Thacker said his office had received many phone calls from people asking to help, but they wanted to donate to families directly. To date, the relief team has collected more than $15,000 in donations, he said.

Thacker was elected last September as the county’s leader after defeating long-standing official Billy Ray Patton by fewer than 300 votes. He recently celebrated eight months in office.

Asked why he sought the job, Thacker said he wanted to “take care of the people.”

For more information about federal assistance, call 1-800-621-3362 or log onto www.disasterassistance.gov.

Kimberly McMillian is based in Rhea County. Contact her at kdj424@bellsouth.net.

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