Glenda Smith recalls peering out of the side door of her Martinez home during the recent ice storm when she heard an ominous sound from above.
The huge tree limb that covered her driveway and most of her front yard was cracking under the weight of the ice, and the 73-year-old knew it was only a matter of time until the branch came crashing down.
“Just about the time (my son) turned to get by the mailbox, the limb fell,” Smith said. “It was all over the driveway and all over the front yard.”
Though Smith and her son tried to clear the debris from her property on Old Evans Road, the task was too big to tackle. On Saturday, a crew of volunteers cleared the debris in less than six minutes.
Saturday was declared a day of service in Columbia County. Volunteers from across the state descended on the area to assist the elderly and disabled by clearing debris from their yards and dragging hefty limbs to the curb to be picked up by county workers.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Evans served as the event’s headquarters. By 9 a.m., more than 200 people had gathered in the church’s gym to don bright yellow shirts and receive their marching orders. An additional 100 volunteers were expected to arrive through the rest of the day.
After joining in prayer, volunteers split into teams of 10, said David Squires, who helped coordinate the event with Columbia County Emergency Management Director Pam Tucker.
Teams were made up of people both young and old, and each was assigned two chain saw operators to cut the broken limbs into manageable sizes.
Each team received a list of about eight homes. At the start of the day, Squires said, more than 230 homes were in need of service.
Some people dropped by the church early to help set up a chain sharpening station, Squires said. Others donated chain saw bar lube to keep the teams running at all times.
“Lots of people wanted to contribute even if they can’t work today,” Squires said. “That good will is felt and is appreciated.”
After a team finished clearing Smith’s yard, it headed to Glennwood Drive in Evans to assist Stephanie Mosley, an ovarian cancer survivor who is recovering from a recent surgery.
“To see them out here is such a blessing,” Mosley said. “They came out of the kindness in their heart. They could be doing something else right about now.”
Eric Pennington, who leads several Mormon congregations north of Atlanta, said he left his Dawsonville, Ga., home just before 5 a.m. to assist in the cleanup.
“We are all Georgians,” he said. “More than that, we are all brothers and sisters of the same God. People down here are in need.”
Workers were treated to meals provided by local vendors, said Susie Jensen, a church spokeswoman for the Augusta area.
“This is what citizenship is all about,” Squires said. “Good citizens ask themselves, ‘What can I do to contribute? How can I increase the kind words and deeds, the unity and the beauty in my community?’ These are the kind of people you want to be around.”