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Local relief efforts still underway for Greene, Washington tornado victims

Cindy Huskins and Michelle Ricker haven’t forgotten the devastating storms that wreaked havoc on many areas in northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia on the night of April 27.
In fact, both local women are now actively involved in efforts to raise money and bring in goods from donors seeking to help their neighbors in areas hit hardest by the storms.
Unicoi County resident Cindy Huskins said she began making calls to several locations shortly after the storms hit to try and find out how to help the victims. She said she called neighborhood service centers in Unicoi and Greene counties, and the Red Cross.
Finally, she got the answers she needed from emergency management officials in Greene County, who shared with her a list of urgently needed items. Huskins said that list wasn’t what she expected.
“I was surprised to find out that what came to my mind first as to what people would need was not at all what they needed right away,” she said. “My first instinct was to donate clothing, but they need other more important items.”
Huskins discovered that storm victims were in need of simple items consumed on a daily basis such as toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and other goods necessary for personal hygiene.
More recently, emergency workers have included items such as resealable bags of all sizes, mops, brooms and laundry detergent on the list of needed goods.
Huskins has organized a network of local businesses and organizations, all of which are “eager to help,” she said.
“I think what was keeping everyone confused about how to help was that there were no public collections points,” Huskins said. She hopes her collection drive has corrected that problem and opened up an important channel for distribution of donations.
Participating retailers are Jones Hardware of Unicoi, as well as Ace Hardware, Family Dollar, Tri-City Wholesale and Food Lion of Erwin. Items may be purchased or brought in for collection at these stores.
Huskins added that anyone wishing to donate to the storm victims may shop at these businesses for discounts on items collected for the relief effort.
In addition, Huskins said donations may be brought to First Baptist Church, located at the corner of Main and Love streets in Erwin. The church will make trips to Greene County as needed to shuttle donations to the Camp Creek community.
Huskins said she has already collected several boxes and has taken one large donation down to the church already and encourages others to do the same in an effort to help their neighbors.
Huskins is not alone in her desire to help storm victims. Michelle Ricker, an employee of Mountain Commerce Bank in Erwin, lives in the Horse Creek community in Washington County and has experienced the devastation firsthand.
Ricker said she had to take half a day off from work the day after the storm to begin clearing the damage at her own residence and find two missing horses.
But she said what her family went through was mild in comparison to the total destruction and devastation other families in the community suffered.
“When I saw all of this devastation, I went and got pizzas and just started handing them out,” Ricker said. From that moment forward, she has made an effort to work with the South Central Ruritan to help get victims the items they need.
Donations to the Ruritan have already helped people get their power restored and some of the money has even been used to aid a diabetic man in restoring his supplies.
Ricker said the Horse Creek and surrounding communities, which were among the hardest hit by the storms, have had to pull together and rely on help from their neighbors in town and from surrounding counties, including Washington, Greene and Unicoi counties.
Enon Baptist Church is also working hand-in-hand with the Ruritan Club to accept can foods, clothing donations, toiletries and other supplies to distribute to the victims in the community who are struggling to rebuild.
Anyone wishing to make a monetary contribution to the relief effort in this community may do so by donating directly to the Ruritan.
Tax-deductible donations may be made via check to Ruritan National Foundation, P.O. Box 487, Dublin, VA 24084. In the memo line, write “OWC Washington County, TN” or “OWC Greene County, TN” and a check will be cut to the specified area.
For a faster donation which is not tax-deductible, checks may be sent to South Central Ruritan OWC Washingon or Greene County, in care of Bob Beals, 3536 Hwy. 81 South, Jonesborough, TN 37659. Beals is the Ruritan president.
Ricker noted that donors need not fear that their money will end up falling between the cracks or that it will be misappropriated.
“I know this money is going toward the local people here because I’m there every day to see it,” she said.