Samaritan's Purse volunteers tackle storm debris in Augusta area



Shelly Moment stood in the front yard of her Augusta home Saturday and breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in more than a month.

February’s ice storm wreaked havoc on her Johns Road home, sending limbs crashing down on her roof and uprooting large trees in her backyard.

Unable to move the branches herself, Moment was about ready to give up when she received a call from a volunteer with Samar­i­tan’s Purse, an international disaster relief organization. The volunteer told her that a crew would arrive shortly to remove the debris.

“I didn’t believe them,” she said with a chuckle.

Within a couple of hours, about 20 volunteers arrived at Moment’s home. Some removed broken limbs while others cut dangling branches. Moment wasted no time showing her gratitude.

“Before they even had a chance to do the work, I was thanking them for coming because they didn’t have to,” she said. “If it weren’t for them, I think those trees would’ve had to stay back there and rot.”

Samaritan’s Purse, based in Boone, N.C., arrived in the Augusta area Feb. 17, pro­gram manager Jonathan Ble­vins said. Pine View Baptist Church has served as its “lighthouse church,” or home base.

Outside the church sits one of the organization’s disaster relief units, a repurposed tractor-trailer equipped with enough power tools to outfit several teams at once.

On Saturday, Samaritan’s Purse joined forces with the Augusta Emergency
Man­age­ment Division to
send about 70 volunteers to more than 530 homes throughout Richmond, Columbia and Aiken counties.

“We do this every day,” said Blevins, who added that helping others is his calling. “The folks we try to reach out to are those who can’t help themselves. We’ve been welcomed by everyone that we’ve come in contact with.”

Volunteers have come from all parts of the country, Blevins said, and one came from Australia to help with the cleanup. They sleep and eat at the church every evening, showering in a separate trailer behind the church.

Rudy Barrington, one of the team leaders, traveled from Waycross, Ga., to lead a crew of 12 volunteers Saturday. By about 1:30 p.m., his team was working on its fourth location, a small home on Westcliff Court in Martinez.

“We feel like this is something that we should do – help people who can’t help themselves,” Barrington said. “We want to share our love. It’s helpful to the
homeowners, of course, but it is very gratifying for us to help other people as well.”

Though crews have worked almost daily for more than three weeks, cleanup efforts might last at least another week, Blevins said.

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Samaritan’s Purse is requesting aid from more volunteers to help clear storm debris. Those interested are asked to arrive at Pine View Baptist Church at 119 Pleasant Home Road in Martinez by 7:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday to check in. Volunteers will be split into teams and dispatched to homes.