Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Catholic Charities Steps In To Help Storm Victims

By GEORGIA BULLETIN STAFF | Published March 20, 2008

Officials from Catholic Charities Atlanta toured wrecked Atlanta neighborhoods as residents recover from the tornado and storms that swept through downtown and North Georgia on Friday, March 14, and Saturday, March 15.

The nonprofit aims to help people get their lives back in order. The organization is also reaching out to rural counties in North Georgia to ensure people have the support they need.

“The needs are going to be around housing. People have lost their homes and are going to need places to live,” said Ethel Haggins-Harris, the director of emergency assistance at Catholic Charities Atlanta.

Winds traveling at 130 mph swept through the heart of downtown Atlanta Friday night, damaging the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center, downtown hotels and office towers and in-town historic neighborhoods. The tornado left a path six miles long with a width of 200 yards, according to the National Weather Service.

The tornado destroyed 49 residences in Fulton County and damaged three schools, 769 residences and 102 businesses outside the downtown area, reported the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.

Other parts of the state were also hit by severe weather during the weekend. In Butts County, 11 residences were damaged. In Effingham County, one residence was destroyed along with a power plant’s cooling tower building. In Floyd County, nearly a dozen residences were damaged and four were wrecked.

Close to 30 were injured in the Friday tornado and two people were killed in northwest Georgia when more tornadoes hit Saturday.

Statewide, damage from Friday and Saturday weather was estimated at $250 million. Gov. Sonny Perdue requested the federal government to declare Atlanta a disaster area.

Harris said the shelters in Atlanta established by the American Red Cross were not full, but she expects more people to come forward who are now staying with friends and family.

Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Atlanta, was in the middle of the storm but not damaged. The parish reported one member had received storm damage and parents of one parishioner were forced out of their home.

Joe Mahoney, from Catholic Charities USA, is helping out here, seeing the damage for himself.

“It almost seems like it’s a hidden disaster” in the shadow of the downtown towers, he said. Mahoney said scores of homes are damaged and people seem to be relying on friends and family to get by.

The Catholic organizations are ready to help out anyone in any way they can, he said.

The local agency got a $10,000 grant from Catholic Charities USA as seed money to provide the initial help.

For assistance in recovery from the tornado or to donate, call (404) 881-6571 or visit