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Judy Wingert, a Samaritan’s Purse volunteer from Pennsylvania, assists with homeowner debris removal during the Christian-relief organization’s response the week of March 10 to an ice storm in Burlington. Samaritan’s Purse staff and volunteers have been in Alamance County and surrounding areas for the past week.

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Originally published: 2014-03-15 15:15:06
Last modified: 2014-03-15 15:28:12

SHARING THE WARMTH

by Tom Mayer

BURLINGTON -- Wayne Shoemaker expected a frosty response as he headed into the "office" Monday, and that's what he got -- at least in terms of working conditions.

The response from the community he was there to serve was the polar opposite.

"Very receptive, real warm," Shoemaker said about the people he met that day and throughout the week. "We prioritize to the uninsured, the underinsured, the elderly and single parents."

As the team leader for the Samaritan's Purse disaster relief efforts following an early March ice storm that downed thousands of trees, snapped utility lines and initially left hundreds of thousands of people without power in the Triad, Shoemaker has had ample opportunity to put those priorities to work.

Heading a team of about two dozen staff and volunteer members, Samaritan's Purse is still on the ground more than a week after the storm devastated homes throughout Alamance and Guilford counties.

Today, crews from the Boone-based Christian-relief organization continue tree removal, debris cleanup and shoring up roofs damaged by wind, weather and trees in an area that encompasses about 350 square miles. Samaritan's Purse does not charge for the labor.

"We rolled in here Monday (March 10)," Shoemaker said, just three days after the storm hit and when much of the area, including Fellowship Baptist Church where the Samaritan's Purse crews are temporarily housed, was without power.

The call for assistance has been continuous since then, the project leader said.

Some of those calls have touched him more than others, Shoemaker said.
"Like this fellow we went out and did an assessment for," he said. "He was a World War II vet who had been in Normandy, 92 years old. A guy like that that you get to help -- that's awesome."

Or the call he received Saturday -- from a woman who had lost both of her legs, or the daughter who reached out to him because her mother had forgotten to renew her homeowner's insurance and a private company wanted $5,000 to remove a tree from her yard.

"I've seen it as bad as it gets," Shoemaker said about disaster relief responses. "From heavy to light responses.

"And the thing is, it may not be bad for you, but for that person affected, it's their Katrina."

Folding that compassion and the opportunity to respond to Jesus Christ's call to help a neighbor into assisting those in disaster zones is what makes the job important to Shoemaker and his colleagues.

"We're always grateful to be able to go out and live the parable of the Good Samaritan," Shoemaker said.

After all, Shoemaker said, he's seen both sides of that parable. As a Boone resident, he was affected by his own ice storm, which hit Watauga County Christmas Day in 2009.

"Been there and done that," he said. "We lost power for seven days. Pulled the mattress off the bed and slept in front of the fireplace. Put snow from the roof into the refrigerator to make an ice box. I got to be an expert in cooking over a wood fire.

"I can identify with these people (in Burlington). I know what it's like."