164 Georgia Baptist disaster relief volunteers descend on Savannah for 48-hour cleanup blitz

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It's been a long road back to normal for Runaway Point resident Rosalind Seymour, right, as she walks toward her home with Harold Baynes, Dalton disaster relief unit director for Unit 8R.The Savannah resident saw two Georgia Baptist teams pull up to a neighbor's house and she immediately sought assistance. JOE WESTBURY/Index It's been a long road back to normal for Runaway Point resident Rosalind Seymour, right, as she walks toward her home with Harold Baynes, Dalton disaster relief unit director for Unit 8R. Just after sunrise one morning the Savannah resident saw two Georgia Baptist teams pull up to a neighbor's house and she immediately sought assistance. JOE WESTBURY/Index

SAVANNAH — A total of 164 Georgia Baptist disaster relief volunteers served in Savannah on the Oct. 22-23 weekend in an urgent call for extra assistance in the city.

State Missionary and Disaster Relief Coordinator Stuart Lang said 97 volunteers served on chainsaw and debris cleanup crews on Saturday, Oct. 22 and 67 served on Sunday, Oct. 23.  The unusual call went out to teams statewide on Tue., Oct. 18 seeking an immediate response.

Feeding crews, who have been onsite since the storm hit, served 398 meals during the weekend. Chainsaw crews completed 45 work requests, shared the Gospel 9 times; and 50 ministry contacts including counseling from chaplains were also recorded.

But the ministry was not just centered on Savannah. In Brunswick, 21 volunteers served that Saturday and 10 were present on Sunday with 41 meals served, eight chainsaw work requests completed, and 12 ministry contacts recorded.

A disaster relief volunteer prepares to leave the Savannah Baptist Association office for another day of work on the chainsaw crew. JOE WESTBURY/Index Disaster relief volunteer Marshall Worley of Dalton prepares to leave the Savannah Baptist Association office for another day of work on the chainsaw crew. Worley is a member of Unit 8R and a member of Salem Baptist Church. JOE WESTBURY/Index

In Townsend, 19 Saturday volunteers showed up while 17 were present on Sunday to complete 6 work orders, share the Gospel twice, and make 31 chaplain contacts.

That brought the coastal response between the three locations to 231 volunteers serving from across the state on short-term notice. The urgent work detail occurred exactly two weeks from the day when Hurricane Matthew made landfall in Savannah after its assault on Brunswick.

Homeowners frequently are charged several hundred to several thousand dollars for removal of debris from their property, many times which includes trees that have crushed through roofs. Those without adequate insurance can be left penniless by the cleanup, if they have funds at all.

Latrees Reeves of Savannah’s Georgetown community is one of those grateful recipients. She was at a party when she heard a friend talking about the free assistance being provided by Georgia Baptists. When she arrived home the friend had sent her a screen grab of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s Facebook page with the information on how to apply.

Disaster Relief Unit 8R Director Harold Baynes from Dalton helps Rosalind Seymour with her request removing a downed tree. JOE WESTBURY/Index Disaster Relief Unit 8R Director Harold Baynes from Dalton helps Rosalind Seymour with her request removing a downed tree. JOE WESTBURY/Index

“This is an awesome service because it can cost hundreds of dollars – that I don’t have – to have my tree removed,” she said while filing an application on Oct. 17 at the Savannah Baptist Center, which houses the Association. The large center at 704 Wheaton Street serves as headquarters for disaster relief teams needing housing and meals while they are in town.

Reeves was one of the 350 individuals requesting assistance just a few days before the appeal went out for additional volunteers. Some individuals could not even get into their homes due to trees on their roofs or blocking entrances.

Savannah area resident and disaster relief volunteer Gerry Rowland, a member of South Newington Baptist Church in Bloomingdale, was happy to help Reeves fill out the form.

“So many people are so grateful for this assistance, and readily accept our offer to pray with them. When we tell them there is no charge they frequently begin crying right then. They say there are not enough words to thank us for our help,” she noted.

Since the storm hit on Oct. 7, Georgia Baptists have fielded 953 volunteers serving in hard-hit areas from Brunswick to Savannah, served 20,141 meals, completed 175 work orders, recorded 5 professions of faith, presented the Gospel 36 times, and provided chaplain counseling 261 times and general ministry contacts 330 times.

Brunswick, Disaster Relief, Hurricane Matthew, Savannah

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