Dedication Planned For Saturday Afternoon, April 28
BY KEN LITTLE
Charles Allen has reaped unexpected rewards for his efforts in building a memorial to the victims of the April 2011 tornadoes.
The stonemason from Hendersonville, N.C., has spent numerous hours of volunteer time in the Camp Creek community since last June. Using his skills to help create a lasting memorial is a labor of love for Allen.
Why does he keep coming back?
"The people," Allen replied. "These people lost so much, and I feel I've been given so much. I try to give back a little."
What's he gained from all the work?
"I've grown in my relationship with the Lord because of it. That's the return I've got," Allen said.
MEMORIAL SERVICE APRIL 28
The monument, located on property between Camp Creek Elementary School and Harris Memorial Free Will Baptist Church, is rapidly taking shape.
The memorial service to honor nine local tornado victims and survivors is scheduled for 3 p.m. on Saturday, April 28.
"I'm here to lay the stone, and then we'll return to make the cap," said Allen, who was working Wednesday with Camp Creek Ruritan volunteers Chuck Woodley and Mike Bacile.
Allen is a men's ministry leader for the Carolina Baptist Association and is also part of the Carpenter's Hands Ministry, a multi-church group composed of members with building skills.
His home church is Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Hendersonville.
Woodley has been helping out at the monument site since work began in mid-March.
Other groups have pitched in, too, including Idell Construction Co., which poured the concrete pad on which the monument will rest.
The site is for people from throughout Greene County and the area who lost loved ones in the tornadoes to come and spend time in reflection, Woodley said.
"We've already had people out here parked and meditating, so it's already started," he said. "We've already had people take advantage of this particular site."
Woodley said he had learned some practical skills from working with Allen.
"Charles and I, we got to bond, kind of, and I enjoy working with him. It's kind of interesting to learn," Woodley said.
Each irregularly-shaped "tumbled webstone" used on the monument is carefully inspected before it's fastened onto the base. The stones are rounded on the side and lined up by volunteers for the best fit.
The monument is on a plot of land donated to the Ruritans by the Greene County School System.
A clubhouse for the Camp Creek Ruritan Club that would double as a community center and tornado shelter is planned for land that would be in back of the monument, as it is seen from Camp Creek Road.
"The bigger thing will be the building that will be put here in case of some other tragedy, where we can keep people and help feed them. Hopefully we will get more donations so we can fit everybody in," Woodley said.
A ceremonial groundbreaking for the Camp Creek Ruritan building will be held after the memorial service on April 28.
The memorial was carefully designed to reflect the significance of the event, and to honor the memories of the tornado victims.
The victims' names will be engraved on a granite stone. The marker will be surrounded by a 20-foot half-circle memorial garden and will include a sidewalk entrance.
There will be three flag poles surrounding the memorial that will fly American, Tennessee and Ruritan flags. The perimeter area will be landscaped.
"This whole thing is about the families of the survivors," said Wayne Bettis, a Camp Creek resident who is in the Ruritan Club chapter. Bettis also serves as spokesman for AIDNET of Greene County.
The Camp Creek Ruritan Club was formed in 1955, but has never had a dedicated meeting spot.
"The club has been absolutely amazing. They just jumped in here and started," Bettis said of the monument.
"We built it on faith. They made the decision to build it without the money."
Donations have come in, but more will be required to realize the dream of the community center.
"We will try to build a (tornado) shelter under the Ruritan building, so we would encourage the community to make donations as much as they can," Bettis said.
To donate, checks can be sent to: Camp Creek Ruritan Building Fund c/o Dave Gess, 930 Shakerag Road, Greeneville, TN 37743.