Stories from the Storm in Central Florida

By , March 30, 2007

In the aftermath of any disaster, there are stories that emerge that grip the heart of the volunteers and immediate community. These stories are not manufactured to stir an outpouring of support but are real life human dramas. Everyday these dramas are played out in a disaster area but occasionally, one or two stories so captivate the heart that they have to be shared.

In the days following the central Florida tornadoes, county officials condemned homes that were too dangerous to allow inhabitants. For a many families this was devastating news. Either under insured or without insurance, many families had nowhere to go and very little recourse. Yet, time is passing when their homes have to be destroyed, debris moved to the street and debris collection by FEMA completed.

During the early days of this process, God’s Pit Crew (GPC) was making their second trip into the central Florida disaster area. GPC teams had already been clearing trees and debris on an earlier trip. Now, they were returning to help some of these families that could not afford to pay to have their homes raised.

Shortly after GPC starting one of the projects, a special circumstance arose. Just a few houses down the street lived an 87 year old widow whose house had been condemned. She had no insurance. She was the sole caregiver of her 25 year old grandson who had under gone three surgeries for brain cancer. During each surgery, the doctors removed sections of his brain that had succumbed to the cancer.

Randy Johnson of GPC decided that “Granny” Thomas’ house would be their next project. While GPC was finishing their first house, they invited another team that was sharing accommodations at the Intensive Care Ministries to help. Their task was to remove all of the furnishings and personal items that could be salvaged. For days, Granny Thomas stayed at the house not wanting to leave.

On the day GPC was bringing their heavy equipment to Granny’s house, Granny was trying to salvage food from her refrigerator which had not been running for several days. Randy explained to her that the food was not salvageable and she needed to leave so they could remove her house. At that moment, Granny Thomas broke down and cried. She had nowhere to go; what about her grandson; how would she make it. Questions she never thought she would have to answer.

“Without a doubt, this was the hardest thing I have ever done at a disaster site,” said Randy Johnson. “We really did not know what Granny Thomas was going to do.”

During the demolition, a local pastor dropped by to talk with Randy of GPC. Pastor Steve of the Father’s Hose church wanted to give a donation. After their conversation, Pastor Steve and his church donated $10,000 toward Granny Thomas’ replacement home.

When GPC returned home to Danville, VA, they began to raise money for Granny’s house. Within a few days, GPC had raised an additional $13,000, made contact with Horton Homes, a mobile home manufacturer who agreed to sell a home for $2,000 below manufacturing costs, delivered from the manufacturer in Georgia.

GPC set everything in motion and within a few days they were in Florida preparing the site for this new home. After the new 14’x72’, three bedroom, two bath home was delivered; GPC leveled and made all the necessary connections to electricity and plumbing. They underpinned the home and built an 8’x20’ deck on the front and a smaller deck on the back, landscaped the yard and bought new deck furniture.

The day Granny Thomas and her grandson moved in was a day of excitement for the entire community. As it turned out Granny had been “Granny” to that community. She had helped many of the young adults when they were children. Granny was loved and everyone knew her.

God’s Pit Crew and their volunteer teams made an enormous impact in central Florida. In fact, through their efforts, Horton Homes has made more of these homes available for other families displaced by the storms. Needless to say, God’s Pit Crew is a MVP (most valuable partner) with Operation Compassion!

Please send your donations to or contact:

Operation Compassion
David Lorency, President
Tim Burdashaw, Int’l. Operations Coordinator
Lisa Boen, Int’l. Logistics Coordinator

114 Stuart Road, NE Suite 370
Cleveland, TN 37312
423.728.3932 Office
423.728.3958 Fax

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