Tornado relief agencies ask volunteers to take a day off

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— Nashville nonprofits were so overwhelmed with volunteers and donations for tornado relief over the weekend that they had to ask the helpers to take a day off.

Hands on Nashville, which operates as a clearing house for volunteers, posted on its blog Saturday, “Thousands of volunteers continued to knock out projects at an insane speed today! Volunteers were so effective that multiple agencies and locations have reached out to us tonight” asking to cancel various projects that had been slated for Sunday.

In addition, the Community Resource Center, which is acting as Nashville’s main clearing house for tangible donations such as water, blankets and diapers, closed on Sunday to allow staff and volunteers time to process and distribute what they had already received.

The National Weather Services said the storm that killed 24 people in Tennessee the pre-dawn hours last Tuesday spawned ten tornadoes. The most deadly of those hit Putnam County, about an hour east of Nashville, where 18 people died and another 88 were injured. There, too, officials have had to turn away people wanting to help.

“So many people have wanted to volunteer, we had to put them on a standby list. It’s been incredible,” said Molly Brown, herself a volunteer working as the temporary spokeswoman for the Putnam County Emergency Operations Center. In her normal life, Brown is the executive director of the Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau.

“We did have some people who were frustrated; they just want to help so much,” Brown said.

Brown couldn’t say how much money had come in to the county relief fund, but in Nashville, the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee was reporting $6.5 million in pledged contributions on Monday. Big donors include pop superstar Taylor Swift, who donated $1 million and the Titans Foundation and Tennessee Titan owner Amy Adams Strunk with another $1 million. The NFL Foundation pledged another $250,000.

Sales of T-shirts with the “I Believe in Nashville” logo from a popular mural around town had raised $500,000 for tornado relief by Monday, according to a news release.

There have been few reports of looting or people otherwise trying to take advantage of victims, but in Nashville a man was charged Monday with drugging and sexually assaulting two women staying at a tornado shelter.

The women told police that Cory Sullivan was on a cot beside theirs at the shelter in a Nashville recreation center, according to an affidavit filed in General Sessions Court. They said Sullivan took an interest in them Sunday, trying to befriend them and buy them food.

At one point, Sullivan drugged them by “grabbing them by the hair, pulling back their head, and stuffing a strip of suboxone dissolvable strip in their mouth,” according to the affidavit. It said he later began kissing and groping them against their wishes. The women told sheriff’s deputies at the shelter what was happening and Sullivan was detained, according to the affidavit. Sullivan was being held Monday on a $80,000 bond. Online court records do not list an attorney for Sullivan.

Joel Sullivan — no relation to Cory Sullivan — is the regional executive for the Tennessee region of the American Red Cross. He said the organization seeks to provide a secure, safe and comfortable environment for storm victims. He said about 100 people were in the shelter at the time.