Armed with a battalion of dump trucks, heavy machinery, chainsaws and their own bare hands, approximately a thousand volunteers met atop a hill at Adairsville Church of God to receive instructions on where help was needed most.
The church’s pastor, Ken Coomer, said the day’s goal was to secure the exterior of area homes. Next week, volunteers will begin to rebuild homes whose owners lack insurance or enough insurance to cover the entirety of the damage.
“Everybody’s giving all they can give to everybody who lost all they had,” said Coomer.
Churches and other agencies across the city and region are pitching in to help affected residents, from providing hundreds of meals to finding shelter for them.
“Every church in this town has literally done everything they can,” said Coomer. “The faith-based organizations are the ones really making this thing happen.”
Considering the tornado’s impact on the community, Coomer was thoughtful as he noted numerous county agencies and city officials who also supplied immediate manpower and haven’t stopped working since.
“There’s no place to place a gold star unless you place it over the whole city,” said Coomer.
As volunteers gathered outside the church in bright orange vests, Jerrod Finlay from Oxford, Ala., briefed a small group on the day’s directives. As a member of Team Rubicon, a veteran and medical professional-based disaster relief organization, Finlay supervised several group leaders.
“A lot of these groups are inexperienced and haven’t really done disaster or search-and-rescue kind of stuff before, whereas most of us in Team Rubicon have,” said Finlay. “We basically just take our skills and past history and use them to kind of help lead and guide them. It helps keep them safe.”
Rome native Danny Burnham was one of several members from Cassville Baptist Church who came out to lend a hand. Burnham, a teacher at Model High, said he felt driven to be a part of the relief efforts by a love for mission work.
“As soon as the stuff hit the news on Wednesday, my phone started blowing up with all my kids from church going ‘we need to get up there,’” said Burnham.
Several volunteer groups converged on areas between U.S. 41 and Cass Street where the tornado blazed a visible path of destruction. Teresa Hernandez carried several loads of tree limbs from a yard to a debris pile. When the tornado roared through town, she missed being hit by a half-mile.
“It’s just a very heartbreaking situation,” said Hernandez. “My work is right here and my home is here and to know that I wasn’t affected… but I can help other people clean up and get their life back together.”
Nine-year-old Gavin Smith from Cartersville donned a blue baseball cap from his Cub Scout Pack 49 as he assisted in hefting a cracked wooden board from a field in the tornado’s path. It was his first experience working on a storm scene and he wore a serious expression as he carefully stepped around debris.
“I think it’s important to pick it up because if no one does, it’s going to be a really big mess,” said Gavin.
Volunteer crews are meeting again today at the Adairsville Church of God starting at 8 a.m. There will be a service from 11 a.m. to noon with lunch served afterwards. Crews will then return to work until 3 p.m. Volunteers must register at the church in order to help. For more information, call 770-773-3264 or visit www.bartowrecovery.org.