Volunteers come together to help with tornado recovery efforts in Pembroke

BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) – A new cleanup crew is making a pit stop in Pembroke to help with tornado recovery efforts.

The volunteer team better known as God’s Pit Crew drove Virginia tractor-trailers to help with tree removals and debris pick-up.

“We have a lot of power and a lot of cool toys,” said Chris Chiles, immediate disaster response coordinator, God’s Pit Crew.

God’s Pit Crew volunteers say the tractor-trailers filled with 40 chainsaws, several wheelbarrows and shovels are designed to help clear debris from properties overwhelmed by storm damage so county officials can more easily pursue the cleaning process.

“We have two excavators, two skid steer loaders and one excavator, a 72-foot lift, two F-450s, two F-3s, three F-350s and two truck tractors,” Chiles said.

Chris Chiles helps oversee disaster response across the country for the group.

He says he and his team have experience cleaning up tornadoes, but each situation has its own challenges.

“A tornado is just devastating. It doesn’t matter where it is or in what part of the country. When a tornado hits, especially whoever it hits, given the families who have lost everything, it’s hard to see. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it,” Chiles said.

Amid the devastation are new signs of progress.

The Red Cross says it will end their overnight shelter in the area as those affected receive help.

“Most people have had other resources, other places to stay, family, hotel funds, insurance, whatever. So we weren’t as stressed focusing on that aspect of shelter which was very lucky,” said Kelsey Vaneyl-Godin, Coastal Georgia Disaster Program Manager, American Red Cross.

Red Cross officials say they will focus on individual claims as more recovery funds become available.

“There are so many organizations that are dying to help you. And it was an amazing achievement,” Vaneyl-Godin said.

But for Chiles and his team, he says helping those in need is what makes the hard work worth it.

“It’s just hope. To see someone who has no idea, I went to meet a family today. Their house is destroyed. It must be demolished. They didn’t know how they were going to clean it all up. They have 30 acres with trees everywhere. Just the cost, what it would cost them to pay someone to do it, and we’re doing it for free,” Chiles said.

A community coming together for what officials say will be a year-long process of rebuilding.

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