published Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Volunteers tackle debris on Recovery Day

Bob Lee talks about his family’s survival of the April 27, 2011, and March 2 tornadoes Saturday as members of First United Methodist Church help clear debris from his property in Bradley County.
Bob Lee talks about his family’s survival of the April 27, 2011, and March 2 tornadoes Saturday as members of First United Methodist Church help clear debris from his property in Bradley County.
Photo by Randall Higgins.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Bob Lee family has been listening to the sounds of demolition at the Blue Springs Elementary School echoing across the valley to their home for several days.

"It was sad to hear," Lee said Saturday as chain saws buzzed outside his own replaced modular home.

Volunteers were cutting large tree trunks that have been on the ground over a year, a memorial to the April 27, 2011, tornado that swept across Blue Springs Road and the rest of Bradley County.

The Lees were hit again March 2 when a tornado tore the roof off their modular replacement home.

"You can't give up," Lee said. "There are people worse off than we are."

One day after anniversary observances by the community, Saturday was Recovery Day.

Even before the advertised 9 a.m. time, people were signing up to help clear storm debris. They came to the old Food Lion on APD 40 to sign the forms and be directed to a location. More than 100 sites, from the April 27 and this year's March 2 tornadoes, are on the list.

The volunteers spent the day at dozens of locations, such as the Candies Lane home of 88-year-old Henry Watson where the March 2 storm left nothing but pieces of a demolished house.

The volunteers included a large crew from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, working at four locations, and another crew from First United Methodist Church. But many people just came on their own to work wherever they were needed, like the family of Mike and Kay Glasgow with daughters Tsavo and Shiloh.

"The point is, there is still a lot of needs out there," said Connie Wright, the Cleveland District, United Methodist Church relief coordinator. "For some people it is just emotionally hard to pick up the debris in their own yards."

"We are at the point now where we need people who can volunteer equipment like back hoes and stump grinders," Wright said.

Laura Mountain said she was sitting on her couch, thinking about all the people still looking out their own windows at the debris. It was the beginning of Cleveland Cleanup 2012, an informal group of volunteers who mostly stay in touch on social media.

Since January they have been getting together to help someone clear away the storm debris.

"There's about 50 or 70 of us," said Mountain, who is also a school board candidate. "The number varies from week to week. We ask the property owners to help, too, if they are able. If not, they can help by just spreading the word. The more volunteers we have the more cleanup we can do."

Cleveland Cleanup can be emailed at Clevelandcleanup@gmail.com.

about Randall Higgins...

Randall Higgins covers news in Cleveland, Tenn., for the Times Free Press. He started work with the Chattanooga Times in 1977 and joined the staff of the Chattanooga Times Free Press when the Free Press and Times merged in 1999. Randall has covered Southeast Tennessee, Northwest Georgia and Alabama. He now covers Cleveland and Bradley County and the neighboring region. Randall is a Cleveland native. He has bachelor’s degree from Tennessee Technological University. His awards ...

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