Local volunteers help with relief in aftermath of hurricanes
Having helped with relief efforts before, Nick Filetti loaded his truck with some heavy equipment from his farm, including a root grapple, before driving the six hours to Panama City, Florida. Alone in his truck as he neared Panama City, where Hurricane Michael hit on October 11 as a Category 4 storm, he said,
“I could almost feel the heaviness of the hearts of the people who lived there. The area will never be the same. My heart just hurt for them.”
The next day brothers Kevin and Darrin Peterson, and two of their sons, joined Filetti along with two men from Powder Springs to fill work orders requiring heavy equipment. Their first job was pulling debris from the inside of the First Presbyterian Church. The storm had destroyed half of the roof of this very large church and flooded the interior.
Anxious to get as much work done as they could, Filetti and his team helped others with their work orders, too. In one place they cleared at least 20 huge oak and pine trees. In another they extracted and cut up two trees that had fallen on a roof, through the master bedroom and into the ground. The team worked until 8 or 9 p.m. and then started again early on Sunday morning.
Also in Panama City to help with the cleanup were Cameron and Colin Drawdy. A senior at Chattooga High School, Cameron said of the devastation,
“I’ve never seen anything like it before.”
He and his brother, Colin, had gone down with their church youth leader, Andrew Baldree. Their relief team was given work orders to clear yards of trees and limbs. They worked hard all day then camped out next to a baseball field at night, then started in again on Sunday after a short sacrament service.
Of one place they worked Colin said,
“When we finished we said a prayer for the woman we helped, then she thanked us and said she knew that God was with us while we were giving service.”
The last person they helped, according to Cameron, was “a small lady who couldn’t do a lot.”
“When we were leaving she asked us to stay, then she broke into tears because she was so thankful for the help. I gave her a hug.”
Rome High School student Sevie Andrews was there along with Hayden, Carlie and Ansley Filetti and Jake and Jordan Jensen. Their team took care of big trees that had fallen. The adults used the chainsaws while the youth hauled branches and stacked wood by the side of the street for the big trucks to pick up later.
“People were very grateful,” said Sevie, “they couldn’t stop thanking us.”
By noon on that Sunday, teams started packing up for the drive back to Georgia. Since Nick Filetti had come down by himself, he decided to stay longer. He had overheard that the director of the command center that had organized the work had 20-30 trees down in her yard and her mother’s that was next door. Using his heavy equipment, he worked until 8 p.m. clearing the yards of both women.
Nick Filetti serves as president of the Cartersville stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Even before Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and Hurricane Michael wrecked its devastation in Florida, preparations were underway to provide relief to those in need. According to Filetti, the church had already loaded semi-trucks with food and supplies for the anticipated relief effort and stationed them in outlying areas until allowed to enter the devastated areas. Filetti had communicated with the leadership of the nine congregations in his stake, letting them know assignments for volunteers would be forthcoming.
Every weekend for the past ten weeks, an average of 3,480 members of the church from the Southeast accepted assignments to help, and many others went on their own compelled by the desire to help. In the last month and a half the church has sent over 36,000 volunteers to affected areas. Those volunteers worked a total of 504,765 hours and closed 14,901 work orders for help.
In the future, Filetti would like to be able to do more when disaster strikes.
“We would like to partner with other churches and groups,” he said, “so we as communities can show a love for our brothers and sisters who are suffering, no matter how far away they are.”