Disaster-relief group comes to Collettsville

'We never dreamed we'd get help like this'
Jul. 18, 2013 @ 08:41 AM

Like angels on wheels, crews in two large trucks rolled in to the parking lot of Mulvale Baptist Church in Collettsville Wednesday morning. Inside one, backed up into the church parsonage driveway, was an array of power tools, equipment, cases of bottled water, roof tarps, and other items of need. The other truck provided shower stalls for the volunteers who would soon gather to use after toiling away in the summer heat.

The mission: helping area residents like Ruth and Spencer McGee get their properties and lives back together after Friday's storm wreaked havoc in the small community in northwestern Caldwell County.

The McGees' house was the first stop. Downed trees lay strewn around the house. Two trees, ripped free of the ground by the high winds, had fallen across a creek and culvert in Friday's storm, which in turn diverted the flow of water across the yard. Before long, the basement was a foot deep in water. Their four dogs and five cats had to be rescued from their kennels.

"This was the worst I've ever seen," Ruth McGee said. "It looked like a twister had hit. We were standing on our sun porch, and the rain and hail was so loud we couldn't hear each other. As long as we've lived here, we've never had a disaster. This is the worst I've ever seen. I keep thinking this is a nightmare and we will wake up."

Things were looking bleak until they found out Tuesday they were on the list for help from group from Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational, evangelical Christian organization based in Boone that provides spiritual and physical aid around the world to disaster victims.

"The next thing we know, Samaritan's Purse shows up. We've always helped ourselves. We never dreamed we'd get help like this."

The volunteers began arriving at the church early Wednesday. Roger and Cundy Rowe of New Bern were among the first. Just two days earlier, they had returned home after five weeks assisting tornado victims in Moore, Okla. Curtis Dollar showed up from Bluffton, S.C., a six-hour drive from here. Richard Coggins of Mocksville has been a 23-year volunteer for Samaritan's Purse and the N.C. Baptist Men.

Tim Haas of Samaritan's Purse assembled the group and gave them their marching orders. They would begin work on homes recommended to them by Caldwell County Emergency Management Services. They would work through Saturday if possible, staying overnight in the church fellowship hall or parsonage.

Armed with chainsaws, the volunteers then went to work.