The Coweta Community Foundation and its partners have a large number of volunteers, as well as funding, to help Cowetans rebuild after the tornado. Right now, what they need is to hear from more people who need their help.
Skilled crews from Weaverland Disaster Service, a Mennonite group, are in town until April, and can accomplish a lot – as long as the work is ready for them to do. Local volunteers and Inspiritus Disaster Relief are also working on local projects.
Help is available to repair tornado damage for homeowners – even if the homeowners are insured. They just have to have damage from the tornado.
"We need more families to sign up. We need more people to say, 'I need assistance,'" said Kristin Webb, foundation executive director.
The foundation currently has three "tracks" for relief. Those who need significant help with rebuilding would go through the full case management process. The "light track" is for homeowners who need help with labor but can afford to provide their own materials. Homeowners can use their insurance money to purchase the materials and get help with labor. There is also the rental track.
The foundation will be launching a fourth track, to help with tree removal, in the new year.
While most services are not available for those who own investment properties, landlords can take advantage of the light track, Webb said.
Local officials recently toured several worksites to see crews in action and to see an example of the work that can be done through the light track.
The work is funded through donations to tornado relief and the proceeds from the Alan Jackson Where I Come From benefit concert. Long Term Recovery Director Rich DeWees’ salary is funded jointly by Coweta County and the city of Newnan, but only for the next 2 ½ years.
So it's important to work as quickly as possible, said Webb. Having groups like Weaverland come down to help is "vital to the success of what we are able to do," she said.
The foundation is currently involved with 31 active construction projects, said Daniel Taylor, construction manager with Inspiritus.
When it comes to the construction work, at least for some of the homes, Taylor said they try to overbuild to "future proof" or bulletproof the houses, such as using treated wood in some areas where treated wood wouldn't normally be used and adding extra support where it is not required. And the construction quality is high.
Finding materials can get a bit difficult sometimes, or at least slow. Cornerstone Building Brands donated $500,000 worth of building materials, but there has been a long lead time on windows in particular.
"Daniel has done a great job of finding what's been needed to keep these projects moving," said DeWees.
Some of the projects would already have been complete except for the wait on windows.
Webb said she now carries around applications for the light track in her car so she can hand them out to people.
She often hears people say they aren't applying for help because they know there are other people who are in worse shape who need help more.
But right now, there is more help than there is work to do.
Roughly 80 percent of those who are going through case management for assistance have insurance, Webb said.
"I told them – it doesn't matter what your income level is, doesn't matter what your education level is, doesn't matter what your employment is, all that matters is that you were impacted by the tornado," Webb said.
However, the assistance can only help with repairs due to tornado damage, not preexisting needs.
"We have the resources to be able to help people, and we are continuing to transform and change based on what people's needs are. But we truly need more people to say, ‘Yes – please help,’" Webb said.
For more information, visit cowetafoundation.org or call 770-253-1833.