Members Help with Ice Storm Cleanup in Georgia
Contributed By By Susie Jensen, Church News contributor
“A natural catastrophe such as this can bring out the best in people as they work together to serve those in need.” —President David R. Squires, Augusta Georgia Stake President
Over 500 Latter-day Saints and community members, young and old, joined forces the third week of February and broke out the chain saws to provide relief to nearly 400 elderly people and homeowners with disabilities. Destructive ice storms in the southeast during February left more than 30,000 homes in the Augusta area without power. Trees and branches were strewn all over the landscape.
Working with the Columbia County Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Augusta Georgia Stake President David R. Squires coordinated volunteer efforts in the stake’s 12 wards.
“Christians serve,” said President Squires. “We work together with people of all faiths to strengthen our families, communities, and nation. A natural catastrophe such as this can bring out the best in people as they work together to serve those in need.”
Volunteers mobilized quickly on three separate days at the meetinghouse in Evans, Georgia, with equipment in hand, ready to receive orders and to pay it forward. Work crews, donning the trademark yellow Mormon Helping Hands shirts, split into teams of 10 and were dispatched to the homes of citizens who had called the EOC for assistance.
Over the course of a week, the EOC provided President Squires with a list of close to 300 properties that needed aid. However, the chain saw teams exceeded the county’s expectations and serviced at least an additional 100 homes.
Service efforts were a family affair, with labor provided by some of the smallest hands on deck—the children. The Brown family of Martinez, Georgia, removed yard debris at the home of their neighbor, James Baggott. The relief was especially welcomed by Mr. Baggott, who is recovering from a shoulder operation. “It’s like a miracle,” said Mr. Baggott, as he watched the yellow-shirted workers, some as young as eight years old, go about their work. “I’ve lived here a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this.”
President Squires pointed out the significance of his decision to include young people in this volunteer effort. “Opportunities to provide meaningful service like this are exactly how we teach our youth to contribute and to be good citizens. Ultimately, it’s how we teach them to be better disciples of Jesus Christ,” he said.
While most of the volunteers live in the Augusta area, nearly 100 volunteers traveled from as far as Sugar Hill, Georgia, three hours away, to help.
President Eric Pennington, second counselor in the Sugar Hill Georgia Stake presidency, said he left his home just before 5:00 a.m. to assist in the cleanup. “We are all Georgians,” President Pennington said. “More than that, we are all brothers and sisters of the same God. People down here are in need.”