Gwinnett County Helping Hands Disaster Relief Volunteers Assisted Pensacola Residents the Second Time in Less Than a Month
Ripping roof tops and toppling down some massive trees, Hurricane Sally's destruction prompted 253 local leaders and members from the Sugar Hill Stake (similar to a diocese) of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to answer the call for clean-up help the second time in less than a month.
Volunteers from Suwanee, Sugar Hill, Buford and other nearby Gwinnett County communities traveled to Pensacola the last weekend of September and returned Oct. 16 – 18. Church officials stressed the importance of social distancing with smaller Helping Hands teams dispatched with personal protective equipment. Volunteer involvement was limited to those 14 to 60 years of age and in good health.
Congregations from each stake divided their volunteers into teams headed by team captains responsible for obtaining work assignments at the Helping Hands command center located at 5673 N 9th Ave, Pensacola. All stakes from the state of Georgia (except Tifton Stake) received their work orders from this command center.
"We had a wonderful time working side by side with the good people of Pensacola," said President Burke Hunsaker of the Sugar Hill Stake Presidency. "It was inspiring to see so many people from our area travel to Pensacola to help those in need. Serving others is how Jesus Christ lived his life and we are so blessed when we follow his example."
Suwanee resident and patent attorney Buddy Toliver came with his wife Stacie and their three teenage children. They were among many families who answered the call to help with Hurricane Sally clean-up during this unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic. The Tolivers were part of a crew that helped Daryl and his family remove several downed trees on his property. Recently diagnosed with cancer, Daryl and his wife prayed to know how they could put their yard and house back together after the hurricane damage. Toliver and his family felt humbly rewarded to hear Daryl call their help a "Godsend" while their family was still struggling to overcome Daryl's cancer.
Another crew member described how planning for these long and physically taxing trips never seem to come during a convenient time. After helping a stranger like Alice feel the love of God through the service from his 20-member crew who tarped her damaged roof and cleaned debris from her yard, his heart was changed and became grateful to be a part of this effort.
In all, 253 Helping Hands volunteers from the Sugar Hill Stake worked a total of 120 work orders to tarp roofs, remove downed trees, and clear debris fields - recording 6,600 volunteer hours logged during both trips.
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