ASHVILLE — It was less than two years ago when St. Clair County experienced a natural disaster that brought droves of volunteers from all over the country to the area, to help clean up.
When disaster struck in another part of the country, St. Clair County was prepared.
Nine members of the St. Clair County Baptist Association’s Disaster Relief Team returned to First Baptist Church in Ashville on Nov. 20, after a week spent helping to relieve the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. The workers — all of them on the association’s “chainsaw team” — spent their time cleaning up at Staten Island.
“My perception of the people (in New York) has definitely changed,” said Glenn Pender, team leader and pastor at Happy Home Baptist Church in Prescott. “I’ve never run into a nicer group of people. They were so gracious and so appreciative.”
The crew stayed at Monrovian Church, which served as a base for the mission team. Ron Warren, of Steele, said a “steady flow” of 40 workers each week are going in and out of the area to relieve the damage.
“During disasters like this, people will ask, ‘Where’s the Red Cross? Where’s FEMA?’” Warren said. “People don’t realize, those organizations can’t mobilize that quickly. We have volunteers — none of them are paid — that are ready to go at a moment’s notice, who are already trained.”
Each unit also travels with a trained chaplain. James Dendy, of First Baptist Pell City, served as the chaplain for this group.
“The damage is similar to Katrina, but it’s not quite as widespread or as vast,” Pender said. “To the people that are living in it, it’s just as bad.”
Pender said the workers were well received.
“The only issue we had was convincing people we didn’t charge for our services,” he said. “People wanted to give us money, and we don’t charge anything to clean up.”