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Community Rallies with Donations

“I’m thankful there was another Morning Pointe that I could come to.” Safe and settled now in her new apartment at Morning Pointe of East Hamilton, 82-year-old Rena Miller talks about that frightening Easter night when a tornado forced her and the rest of her neighbors to flee their home at Morning Pointe of Chattanooga. “I never heard noise in my life like I heard that night. I got my walker and headed out into the hallway, walking over glass that had blown out from the windows,” says Miller. “They came and got us, put us on buses in our night clothes, and took us to a hotel. It was nice when we finally got into our rooms and could sit down and feel safe.”


That’s exactly how 95-year-old Lucy Radar felt. She is also now living at Morning Pointe of East Hamilton. “I can’t believe we survived it and nobody got hurt. That’s what was wonderful!”

In all 130 residents survived the F3 tornado that struck the Tennessee Valley on Easter night damaging hundreds of homes across East Brainerd and Ooltewah. All were safely evacuated from two senior living communities, Morning Pointe of Chattanooga and The Lantern Alzheimer’s community, both on Shallowford Road, thanks to emergency crews and the heroic and steady staff of Morning Pointe Senior Living. “We were so thankful that no one got hurt and we were taken care of. Only God could do that. And, now they have brought me to another Morning Pointe, brought all of our clothes and furniture and have taken care of us. That makes me feel like God has taken care of us,” explains Miller.

The residents not only have many of their belongings back, they also received huge care packages thanks to the generosity of good neighbors across Hamilton County and one person in particular, Curtis Ottinger, the managing partner of the East Brainerd Chapel of the Heritage Funeral Home. The tornado barely missed Heritage and when Curtis heard about the damage at Morning Pointe, the community where his own father lived for over two years, he knew he had to do something.

Quickly, a disaster relief drive was organized with the help of the Morning Pointe Foundation.

“People came from Dalton, Rocky Face, and Ringgold, Georgia, as well as Cleveland, Harrison, and Ooltewah, Tennessee, everywhere around Brainerd to donate to the residents at Morning Pointe and The Lantern,” says Ottinger. “It blessed me so much that people saw and felt the compassion for these residents that were displaced in a moment’s notice. It shows the love Chattanooga has for one another.”

By the end of the weeklong drive, supplies filled five trailers. Ottinger says he personally wrote 294 thank you letters to donors. He knows his Dad who passed five years ago is looking down and smiling. “Never did I dream that five years later, I would still have this bond with Morning Pointe, but I do. They are amazing people and I just love them so much.”

And, so do Rena and Lucy. “When they asked me where I wanted to go, I knew that another Morning Pointe would be best for me until I can return to my original home on Shallowford,” smiles Radar. “We are alive and in a beautiful place and are thankful to God. I am still sleeping in the same bed that I shared with my husband in Kentucky and I am so thankful,” says Miller.

With the tornado behind them, both are looking forward to when they can say the same about COVID-19. Until then, they know they have much to be grateful for. “We at Morning Pointe feel the same,” says Greg Vital, President and CEO of Morning Pointe Senior Living. “I have always known we have amazing staff and a wonderfully compassionate community, but now more than ever we are feeling an outpouring of love and support for our whole Morning Pointe family and we are truly thankful for that. We are Morning Pointe STRONG.”