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Ringgold’s Rock Bridge a collection point for tornado victims

For the next two to three weeks, Catoosa County residents wishing to help their tornado-impacted neighbors in Gordon and Bartow counties can drop off donations at the Advance Title Pawn of Ringgold in Remco Shops from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The store is accepting the donations on behalf of Rock Bridge Community Church of Ringgold next door. The church’s staff will transport the donations to the Rock Bridge campus in Calhoun.

According to Rock Bridge Ringgold campus pastor JC Groves, items needed include baby formula, baby diapers, cleaning supplies, soap, shampoo, personal hygiene products, nonperishable food items and trash bags.

“Ringgold knows what it’s like to be impacted by a tornado,” said Groves, a Ringgold native. “We have an eagerness to give back. We’ve seen folks step up. At the Ringgold campus we have a deep desire to help the people in Calhoun, because we’ve been there.”

Ringgold’s Domino’s Pizza owners Tasha Morgan and Aaron Schwartz took a crew of Rock Bridge Ringgold church members to help, he said. The crew worked on tree removal and assisted in other cleanup.

“The tornado crossed Interstate 75 and went into Gordon County into Sonoraville where 31 homes were destroyed in Bartow County,” said Rock Bridge Calhoun campus pastor Carll Converse. “In the Sonoraville/Gordon County area, 268 homes were hit and 30 were completely destroyed, with 110 majorly damaged.”

Converse, who lives in Calhoun, is working closely with the Ringgold campus.

“The first call I got was from Terry and Nikki Hampton,” said Converse. “They are Rock Bridge members. He’s a retired Gordon County teacher and his wife teaches at Gordon County. Their house had been destroyed and Terry was trapped inside. He was trapped for an hour. I was there when Nikki came home. She did not know what was going on.”

Rock Bridge Ringgold and Calhoun members assisted in finding items from the Hamptons’ home to return to them, he said.

“We took donations to the relief headquarters at Sonoraville High School,” said Converse. “The tornado missed the high school by a mile.”

He said 65 volunteers from Ringgold and Dalton prepared 1,500 sandwiches the Saturday after the tornado to serve the next day to families impacted.

“The neat thing about being one church in four locations is we are one church as a whole,” said Groves. “Our church is in Chatsworth, Calhoun, Ringgold and Dalton, so we are able to extend our reach better than one church in one location. The vision of Rock Bridge is to go out and be in the community.”

Groves said he remembers when the tornado hit Ringgold April 27, 2011. At the time he was serving at a church in Salt Lake City, Utah, but was watching the local Chattanooga TV news stations and listening to Chattanooga radio stations via the Internet. He came back home to Ringgold for two weeks to clean up after the tornado and later decided to move back home.

He has been serving as the campus pastor of the Rock Bridge Ringgold campus since it opened in early January of this year.

“It makes it more meaningful to be the hands and feet of the community [by stepping in to help when tragedy strikes],” said Groves.

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