Thursday, February 14, 2008

Community Services Disaster Relief Fund

From The Commercial Appeal:

Relief fund to assist victims of tornado
Financial aid available for Shelby Countians

By Alex Doniach
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton and former congressman Harold Ford Jr. called on the community Wednesday to assist victims of last week's tornado.

Wharton said in a press conference that Shelby County has launched a "Community Services Disaster Relief Fund" to assist people whose property was destroyed or who are out of work because their workplace was shut down as a result of last week's storm.

"We want a locally based fund without a lot of red tape that ... would be able to give immediate assistance to get people back to work, get their vehicles repaired, those types of things," Wharton said.

Ford said while FEMA did a "pretty decent job this go around," this fund would help those people who don't qualify for a specific FEMA aid package -- a "fall through the cracks" effort, according to Wharton.

And while Wharton did not specify a fund-raising goal, he has asked Gov. Phil Bredesen for $250,000 and also indicated he would be ask the County Commission for aid funds.

A representative from Wal-Mart presented a $5,000 check Wednesday to jump start the effort, and The Harold Ford Jr. Charitable Fund donated $2,500.

Wharton reminded those at the press conference of the damage to businesses in the Hickory Hill area. The Hardy Bottling Company in Southeast Memphis, for example, was completely destroyed, and though no employees were injured, about 170 employees are out of work.

John W. Moore, president of the Memphis Regional Chamber, said the reach of the damage has not been fully realized, but he estimates at least 22 larger facilities sustained damage.

With possible exceptions for special needs cases, the fund will generally address the following:

Utility assistance and rent/mortgage assistance for workers who have been suspended from jobs due to damage to their workplace.

Meal assistance to low-income families who were without electricity for an extended period.

Minor home and building repairs for select homes that sustained damage, especially those of the elderly.

"If government can't help at a time like this, when can it help?" Wharton said.

For assistance from this program, call the Mayor's Assistance Center at 545-4311.

Companies or organizations interested in donating to the funs should call the Mayor's office at 545-4500.

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