The freezing rain began falling from the sky before dawn on Feb. 21. When it finally stopped hours later, up to an inch of ice coated trees and power lines in Monterey, a small town in Middle Tennessee. Limbs began snapping and falling. Roofs, yards, roads, and sidewalks were littered with the debris. "This is the largest disaster Putnam County has had in recorded history," said Brandon Smith, manager of the Emergency Operations Center headquartered in Monterey.
Samaritan's Purse responded by sending staff, volunteers, and equipment to help homeowners reeling from the ice storm.
Over the next four-plus weeks, 329 volunteers worked out of our base at First Baptist Church in Monterey. We completed 346 jobs, providing relief and hope for people who didn't know where to turn for help.
The town and county were overwhelmed by the scope of the disaster. "It was just the enormity of it," Mayor Bill Wiggins said. "We have a population of 2,500, one dump truck, and one backend loader."
Samaritan's Purse staff members arrived in Monterey the day after the storm, and began meeting with government officials and church leaders. "I was in panic mode, and they came and found us and said what can we do to help?" said Jeremy Flatt, the youth pastor at First Baptist. "I didn’t know Samaritan's Purse had disaster relief. We knew the shoeboxes, was all. Now everybody in Monterey knows what they do."
Our teams were a welcome sight as we began to work while the snow was still on the ground.
The First Baptist Church in Monterey served as the hub of our response. It's where volunteers came for orientation, and where those from outside the area stayed. Our cooks prepared meals before and after the workday. The Samaritan's Purse disaster relief unit was based there, along with other equipment. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Rapid Response Team chaplains also worked out of the base.
The disaster relief unit serves as the command post for every response. Homeowners in need of help can come and fill out work orders. The unit is fully stocked with tools and other equipment. Staff and volunteers stay back at base camp to make repairs and keep everything running.
Volunteers came from near and far to help. Chainsaws, wood chippers, rakes, and willing hands were the tools they used to help in the Name of Jesus.
Our volunteers did so much more than just cut up trees and clear debris. They took the time to talk with the homeowners, conveying the care and compassion of Christ. When each job was completed, they prayed with those they helped and presented them with a Bible signed by each team member. By witnessing in word and deed our teams, in close conjunction with the Rapid Response Team chaplains, led 37 people to faith in Jesus.