Griffin was working with the Micaville Volunteer Fire Department when he got his first glimpse of the storm damage. The department delivered some items to Guntersville the Thursday after the storm, and he saw the damage along U.S. 431.
That night, he told his then-girlfriend, April, that he wanted to help that weekend.
She readily agreed to go with him. But once they got here, things changed.
“Sunday, they had a service at Oak Grove Church and God just told me to stay here,” said Timothy, 31. “He’d take care of me.”
April, 22, wasn’t quite as sure as Timothy, but after the few days they’d spent there, she was enjoying the work.
So, Timothy quit his job at a mica mine and he and April, now his wife, settled into the camper he’d bought just a month before. With the permission of the pastor, Timothy hooked up to the church’s power and water to set up their temporary home for the weekend. The church members agreed to let them stay for as long as they chose.
Connie Quinn, a member of Oak Grove, said she’s happy to support the Griffins in their work as long as they want to stay.
“He’s just a permanent fixture, I reckon,” Quinn said with a laugh.
Letting them set up in their parking lot is a small way the members could contribute to the recovery, she said. And the Griffins have become treasured members of the congregation, she said.
“He just fit in,” Quinn said. “I feel like he is, as far as it goes, that he is representing our church.”
As far as Timothy is concerned, it’s all part of God’s plan. He had paid off some bills two months before the storm. A month later, he celebrated by buying the camper.
“I think that’s God’s way of putting me here,” Timothy said. “He put that deal there for me and only he could’ve knew I would’ve needed it.”
Rick Luallen, pastor at Oak Grove, said the Griffins are a blessing God provided to the church and the community.
“The Lord had to be in it because he has been so instrumental in getting things done, and he’s not asked for a penny,” Luallen said.
Sid Nichols, director of missions for the Calhoun Baptist Association, also believes it was divine intervention and pure faith.
“They’ve sacrificed. They’ve not had a consistent salary at all. They’ve lived on faith,” Nichols said. “It’s been amazing how God’s just at the right time, at the right place, provided those things for them.”
And he’s glad for the help.
“They’ve been my right-hand people,” Nichols said.
The two have been working with the Baptist Association every step of the way since that first weekend. The work they’ve done has changed. At first, the two fed victims and volunteers working on cleaning up the debris. They helped with the cleanup themselves. Then they drove a borrowed trailer retrofitted with shelves and filled with supplies to the victims.
The traveling food pantry was Nichols’ brainchild. Because the looting was so bad at first, Nichols said, victims refused to leave their properties for fear that they’d be vulnerable to burglars. They wouldn’t go to the centers for help, so Nichols wanted to take the help to them.
The Griffins were more than happy to be the drivers. And Nichols was surprised at how much information they were able to bring back about the needs of the areas they visited.
“People would open up more, if we were at their house and it was just us two,” Timothy said.
Now that most victims have some sort of shelter, Timothy and April drive that same trailer but now it’s filled with tools. They help organize the volunteer labor on the project sites where the Baptist Association is working and pretty much handle whatever comes along, Nichols said.
Their help has been constant even as other volunteers have drifted away because of fatigue or the need to get back to their own lives. And their work has been invaluable, Nichols added. The money the association received for the recovery effort is gone, so the help of volunteers is necessary to move forward.
And there is still a lot of work to do, Nichols said. A second wave of need is hitting as people’s insurance and Federal Emergency Management Agency settlements run out.
“There’s going to be work to be done for a long time,” Nichols said. “Even though we’re getting these people back in their houses, their barns are still not built, their shops are still not built, their storage buildings are not built.”
The association hasn’t been able to recruit enough labor to build the houses and the outbuildings, so many of the livestock are still living without shelter, he said.
But, remaining needs aside, Nichols marvels at what has been accomplished so far. The association has organized the repair of 40 to 50 houses and the construction of 13 houses. He’s been overwhelmed with the generosity shown during the past nine months. And the Griffins have been there through it all, Nichols said.
The Griffins say they have received much more than they’ve given over the past nine months. For example, just as they stepped up to help the victims, other groups have stepped up to help them.
East Alabama Portables pumps his tank without charge, Timothy said. Church groups send the Griffins donations to live on while they do their volunteer work.
“Helping these people gives me joy,” Timothy said. “When you go up to a house and they’re living in a 14-, 16-foot travel trailer, and you help them build a house ... he’s got a smile from ear to ear; that’s your pay.”
His wife agreed.
“It’s shown me how blessed I am,” April said. “It’s really been a good experience.”