Nontraditional fundraising draws $62,000 for tornado relief
by Marie Nesmith
May 23, 2011 | 3887 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
James Herring, from left, talks with Ronnie Cline and Byron Chastain with The Church of the Covenant about how to distribute funds to storm victims.
MARIE NESMITH/The Daily Tribune News
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With the recovery efforts from the April 27 tornado being described by county leaders as an ongoing, long-term process, Wallace Sanford and James Herring decided to think outside the box to help those in need.

On May 1, Sanford donated his 1966 Chevrolet Nova L79 to the Red Top Auto Auction Collector Car Sale so that its proceeds would assist Bartow County residents who are putting their lives back together in the storm's aftermath. With bids starting at $20,000, the winning offer of $62,000 was placed by Herring, who currently is pinpointing needs and distributing the funds through The Church of the Covenant.

"I broke my back April 2 in an accident, and I had been laid up a lot watching TV, watching all the devastation [from the storms] on TV," said Sanford, a Cartersville resident and managing partner of Red Top Auto Auction. "We were having a classic car auction that weekend. It had been planned for a year. And I was just watching TV and I saw this one guy on TV say, 'I don't know what to do, my home is gone, my neighbors' homes are gone, all my families' homes are gone and everything that we've all got is gone.' He said, 'I just don't know what to do or where to turn to.' And I had this '66 Nova that was the first car I ever restored. Me and my brother did it together [about] seven or eight years ago, and I had it in my basement.

"It's a real unique, rare car. I had always swore that I'd never sell it. I promised myself and my brother that I'd keep that car forever. And I got to laying there wondering what I could do for those victims. So the first thing I did is I started gathering up some of my old NASCAR collectibles that I had around the house [that were] signed by some NASCAR celebrities. I thought, 'I'm going to auction them off right before the regular auction starts and donate the money to those victims.' Then I got to thinking, 'You know this car is sitting here in my basement. It's not really doing me any good and it could help a lot of people.' So I just felt the urge to donate it," he said, adding an announcement was made prior to the auction that the person who placed the highest bid could donate the money to the individuals or charity of their choice to aid in the recovery efforts. "So I just said, 'I promised I would never sell this car but I never promised I wouldn't give it away.'"

Even though Herring is a car collector, he said his sole reason for bidding on the 1966 Nova was to help the storm victims.

"I own two insurance agencies. One in Acworth and one in Bartow," he said, referring to Herring Agency Inc. "I ... just got to thinking about all the devastation, and me being an insurance agent I guess I'm more aware of what's going on in the weather than a lot of people because I'm getting all the claims [resulting from] the hail storms in different areas.

"And it seemed like it hit pretty close to home. Bartow County has been good to us [at] the Herring Agency, and I got to thinking about how the Lord -- he has been good to me and I couldn't not do it. It definitely wasn't the car because that's not the kind of car that I collect. It's a very nice car but I collect different types. ... [Byron Chastain with The Church of the Covenant has] given me a list of names and [various] needs. I told him I wanted to go after the bigger ticket items [like] people who've lost a car that didn't have full coverage because their car maybe wasn't valuable."

As the youth pastor of The Church of the Covenant, Chastain knows firsthand the devastation that the tornado wreaked upon northeast Bartow. With the church -- 250 Crowe Springs Road -- being totally destroyed, except for its doorsteps, the congregation currently is holding services at Hamilton Crossing Elementary School's lunchroom.

"We're using the resources in the community as far as the Christian brothers and sisters to be able to research the needs throughout the area," said Chastain, who plans to distribute the funds on-site with his church's pastor, Ronnie Cline. "One of the key things is we want to get it to the people in the areas where they live every day where they need it the most. Ultimately when you look at the insurances paying off and the things of that nature for the people that's out there, there's the time consuming pieces in between, and the needs that are needed between the time of disaster and the time of being able to fulfill getting their lives back on track with their homes and things of that nature. That time span in there -- making sure that they have the food they need, the shelter they need, the clothing -- [is important].

"I know that a lot of the people that were devastated in the [affected] areas [were] even down to blankets and living in tents and campers and things like that. Being able to have maybe a nice night to go to a place, even if they had to go to a hotel room to take a bath, take a shower, something to where [they] and their kids can be provided for [is key and for them to] know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That there's a God there that truly cares, and he's going to send help through his people to be able to support them in this time."

With six individuals already receiving assistance from the auction funds, Chastain and Herring are reaching out to the community to identify further needs. NorthPointe Church in Adairsville has already revealed some situations that need assistance.

"Byron and Mr. Herring have been working on a list of names," Cline said. "They've been very diligently praying over this and these names, and all I'm going to do is [help] disperse the money. We're going to use this as an instrument, as a witnessing tool. ... That's kind of what the goal of our project is -- to let them know that we're praying for them and we're out here trying to minister to them."

To provide details about storm victims who could benefit from this type of assistance, email Chastain at

"We're going to try to touch as many people as we can," Herring said. "[Already] we're really going to touch more than six because [with the] first half, we set aside 10 percent of it for [Pastor Ronnie Cline] to have a revival once his church is built back to give God glory, because I believe in tithing."