Cleveland, Tenn. – Soon after the deadly tornadoes ripped through Bradley County in East Tennessee, the Girl Scouts of Troop 40243 rolled up the sleeves of their iconic green uniforms and asked what they could do to help their neighbors.
Several tornadoes, including one of Tennessee’s most powerful recorded by the National Weather Service, struck in their backyard. The EF4 tornado with winds at a top speed of 190 mph touched down near the Hamilton County/Bradley County line in Collegedale near Cleveland, Tennessee. With more than 600 homes damaged or destroyed, Bradley County is facing a long road to recovery.
Troop 40243 Leader, Melissa Warner said, “The scope of the disaster is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and most definitely unlike anything my girls have ever witnessed.” Since so many cell phone towers were down as a result of the storms, Warner had a difficult time accounting for the members of her troop, but she eventually received word that all had survived and all of their homes were still standing.
The home of Warner’s fellow Girl Scout Troop Leader, Kindra Chaney, was not so fortunate. “I couldn’t reach Kindra by phone, so I drove over there and when I pulled up the three other women in the driveway were Girl Scout leaders…it gave me chills,” said Warner. Members of Troop 40002, led by Stacey Ridgell, volunteered to help get Chaney settled in a temporary apartment while Warner’s troop headed to a nearby disaster relief center.
“The girls had their own experiences surviving the storms, but once we realized we were all okay, we could refocus our energy on something positive which was helping others,” said Warner.
At the disaster relief center, the girls accepted and sorted donations that came pouring in from community members. The girls, who range in age from 8 – 11, also met with victims of the tornadoes when they came to pick up donations. “A car would pull in and the girls would ask the family what they needed, whether it was detergent or dog food,” said Warner. The mother of two said she doesn’t know how many people they helped, but there was a constant stream of vehicles throughout the day.
“What the troops in Brantley County did in the aftermath of these horrific storms exemplifies what being a Girl Scout truly is,” said Booth Kammann, CEO of the Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians. “Their compassion was on display. We’re proud of all of our Girl Scouts who saw the need in their community and helped in any way that they could.”
The Girl Scout Council of the Southern Appalachians has more than 20,000 girl and adult members stretching from North Georgia to Southwest Virginia. Service centers are located in Chattanooga, Knoxville and Johnson City. Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. The council offers financial assistance to ensure that every girl who wants to be a Girl Scout has the opportunity to join this vibrant organization.