Georgians join hunt for wedding bands, engagement rings in ashes of Colorado homes


LOUISVILLE, Colo. – A team of Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers has been deployed to Colorado to help residents there sift through ashes in search of wedding bands, engagement rings and other valuables that might have survived wildfires that swept through Boulder County on Dec. 30, destroying nearly 1,100 homes.

The 10-member team left Georgia on Valentine's Day on the special mission to reunite wildlife survivors with some of their most priceless possessions.

“Our folks are always ready to help people in need,” said Ricky Thrasher, interim director of Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief. “When we issued the call out this time, we had more people volunteer for the mission than we could send.”

The Georgians have joined crews from 10 other states who are literally sifting through ashes where the homes once stood.

The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has more than 7,000 trained Disaster Relief volunteers – people who Thrasher describes as unsung heroes who leave their families for extended periods to help people in crisis.

Over the past year, they’ve deployed to help victims of hurricanes, tornadoes and floods, working long hours for no pay under difficult conditions to do a variety of tasks. In the eastern U.S., that typically means the yellow-clad volunteers saw up fallen trees, carry away soggy furniture and shovel mud out of homes.

Colorado Baptist Disaster Relief Director Dennis Belz said the teams have completed 362 jobs so far, reuniting survivors with some of their most priceless possessions. Beltz said the volunteers have witnessed lots of tears of happiness.

“We have found way over 100 diamond rings, wedding bands, and class rings,” he said. “We have found lots of valuable items, including coins that a military veteran brought back from Afghanistan. We have found Purple Hearts. We even found undamaged pictures beneath the ashes.”

Belz said winter weather has complicated the process. Since work began, he said the area has been hit with bitterly cold temperatures, two major snowstorms and another that is predicted for mid-week.

“These people are so dedicated,” Belz said. “We’ve had 13-below-zero temperatures, the snowstorms. They’re not stopping for anything.”

So far, Belz said, 12 of the people the volunteers have helped have made professions of faith. He said people can’t help but notice the Christ-like attitudes of the volunteers, even in such difficult conditions, and they ask how they remain so positive.

That, Belz said, opens the door for gospel conversations.

“The whole community is talking about all the yellow shirts,” he said. “They’re just so impressed with what they’re seeing done.”