PLAIN TWP. – A booming crash from the kitchen aroused Alicia Pfalzgraf and her husband from a deep sleep on the morning of June 14.
Investigating the noise, a pile of rubble came into focus as dust plumed out of the kitchen of their Blachleyville Road home. Leafed branches poked through the ceiling. The first sign of major property damage.
By her insurance company's estimation, more than 100 trees were downed the night before, when storms and macrobursts pummeled the area, she said.
She later learned that a tree fell above their sleeping heads, miraculously landing on a support beam, protecting them from harm.
Nearly one month after the June 13 severe storms, hundreds of homeowners like Pfalzgraf are still picking up the pieces and repairing home damage.
"In all my 30 years here, I've never seen such damage," she said.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams based out of Triway Junior High School are hauling away downed trees for residents like Pfalzgraf.
These relief teams provide free aid to homeowners in disaster areas as part of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio, a religious organization that was founded in the South.
Volunteers from across Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania
When relief Director John Heading called on volunteers to clear fallen trees across Wayne and Holmes counties, nearly five dozen answered the call from Ohio, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
Split into two groups that work one week each, they are comprised of chainsaw teams, extra hands to haul branches, cooks, staff and a chaplain.
The first 24 volunteers arrived on June 26 before leaving July 2, he said. A second team arrived just after the Fourth of July.
To house so many people, Heading called Triway Superintendent Nate Schindewolf.
"We're staying at Triway Junior High School," Heading said. "There it's air-conditioned and gives us plenty of room to operate."
In most disaster areas, Heading said, his crews live in churches and schools.
During their first week in Wayne County, his crew cut and hauled branches off of 35 homes and assessed around 20 others.
"We can't hit every property," he said. "We focus on homes that trees have fallen on or properties where trees pose a significant threat to an individual."
"Our goal is to make a home livable, even if you look outside and see trees down across your property," Heading said. "We don't help businesses.
Clearing hundreds of fallen trees
Canopied trees once shaded Pfalzgraf's lawn. Now open skies bathe it in sunlight.
Fallen trees and branches still litter her property off of Blachleyville Road one month after the storm despite near-daily work from paid repair crews and volunteers, including neighbors, she said.
Their once forested property collapsed on itself, damaging their home, garage and storage shed. Repairs were estimated in the thousands, she said.
"I expect cleanup to take maybe six months to a year," Pfalzgraf said. "My husband uses a walker and can't do much, and I can't do much either."
Nearly a dozen trees fell across their driveway and an accompanying culvert, blocking their one route in and out of their property.
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By the time Heading's crews arrived in late June, crews already had cleared a path through her driveway and out of her house while repairmen worked on her roofs, she said.
Pfalzgraf was the Southern Baptist volunteers' second home on the last hot Thursday in June.
Sweating almost as soon as they started, crews of three and four men hauled branches and cleared downed trees for nearly the entire afternoon.
With so many fallen trees, it seemed as if volunteers barely made a dent, but Pfalzgraf was grateful for their help.
"I still can't believe people would give up their time to help total strangers," she said.
National and international aid
When sent to a disaster area, Heading keeps open communication with local politicians, law enforcement and emergency management agencies.
This spreads the word about their work while coordinating with other relief efforts.
"We're all over the place, even Eastern Europe," he said.
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The Ohio Southern Baptist convention with counterparts in other states organized food and supply drives primarily in Poland but also nearby Romania and Hungary following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Heading was among those who spearheaded the effort, establishing bases of operation in Polish towns like Chelm and Gdansk.
Ohio volunteers rotated shifts in Poland to provide material aid to refugees in Ukraine.
"We use our contacts in the Ukrainian Baptist Church to send supplies into the country when we can, but we are limited with what we can do," he said.
While volunteers can enter Ukraine, they do so at their own risk as the U.S. government cannot ensure their protection in a war zone, Heading said.
For some volunteers like Chaplain Terry Smith as he worked at Pfalzgraf's property, this is lifelong work they would never give up.
"We do what we do because of our love of Jesus," Smith said.
Reach Bryce by email at email@example.com
On Twitter: @Bryce_Buyakie
This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Southern Baptist Disaster Relief aids dozens in Wayne County