Summerville group returns from N.J., discusses relief efforts

(Courtesy: Darien Gabriel)

By Stacy

SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- For 20 years, Ron McGuire has been repeating the same line all over the country:{}"'Hi. We're from Summerville, South Carolina. We want to help you.'"

He and his group, Summerville Baptist Disaster Relief, have been everywhere from Texas to New York. They dry out flooded homes, pick up fallen trees and raise some spirits.

They added New Jersey to the list this week.

"One guy we helped, he was out of work. He had four to five trees down in his yard. One was very large, right across his shed," volunteer Darien Gabriel said.

The group did a lot of heavy lifting.

"It doesn't get any easier. Work's pretty hard," McGuire said.

But members enjoyed the camaraderie and giving people a shoulder on which{}to lean.

"An 82-year-old lady was on a countertop. The flood waters came in. It was dark and she was in the house by herself. She got on top of the counter and watched the flood waters come up," Wesley Birt said.

Birt said she just needed someone to listen to her story and tell her all would be OK. It was the same treatment the group says it got after Hurricane Hugo hit the Lowcountry in 1989.

"We saw firsthand what groups from other states could do to help people affected by the storm. That seeing what others did for us, challenged us to do for others," Bobby Bailey said.{}

That was the attitude that kept them going back, no matter how far the drive.

"We hope there are no more disasters and never have to go. But since we have to go, we try to help the people as much as we can to recover," Dave Severt said.

"The jobs don't change, the storms keep coming and we keep going as much as we can," McGuire said.

He said he knew there would be a next time.

The group said it usually spent four days at disaster sites, but this time only spent three because of another impending storm.