Volunteers in Athens help community clean up and rebuild 3 months after tornado

ATHENS (WATE)- Volunteers haven’t stopped coming to the Athens community that was devastated by an EF-2 tornado that ripped through McMinn County, November last year.

This week marks 3 months since the tornado, the damage can still be seen along areas of Highway 307.

Local volunteers have not stopped coming to help. On Saturday mornings, a group of volunteers gather at Eureka Trailhead at 8:30 a.m.

The group of 50 (or sometimes more) volunteers spread out throughout the community and work as needed, clearing debris and fallen trees from properties.

“If you can pick up wood sitting on the ground and put it in a pile, virtually anyone, men or women, can do it with no problem at all.” Said Tom Findley, a volunteer from Shepard of the Lake Lutheran Church.

Findley’s group of nearly 10 church volunteers came from Tellico Village to help in anyway they could. Findley says they’re just doing what they would hope others would do for them.

“Love God and love your neighbor are the two most important commandments. So we do the best to follow that.” Said Findley.

Homeowners Mike and Shelly Shields lost their home to the tornado. They are in the process of rebuilding and clearing their property of debris like glass and fallen trees.

“You see something that’s gotta be done. You gotta get it done one way or the other.” Said Mike Shields.

“Financially, to have somebody come in here and do this whole thing, I guess you could say would be a lot more than my budget could handle today. It’s going to be a long process.”

The Shields say they have been lucky that insurance is paying for most of their rebuilding. However, one part of their home that is not covered by insurance is the condition of their yard.

The Shields say any help offered to help their yard would be a great help.

“It’s not all just big work, which there is a lot of big work to do. Just picking up. Just helping somebody pick up their sticks on the lawn. Raking would be a fantastic help. Pretty soon we’re gonna be mowing our lawns. There’s a lot of sticks that’s gonna be hit with the lawn mowers.”  said Mike.

Volunteers do not need to sign up beforehand. The next dates for scheduled volunteer shifts are March 11 and March 25.

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