ALBANY, Ga. - What started out as a message of hope has turned into a much needed fundraising effort in Albany, Georgia after deadly tornadoes ripped through southwest Georgia last month.
It all started on January 2, when a windstorm rolled through the Albany area, causing severe damage. Then, on January 22, an EF3 tornado came through, claiming the lives of many.
Now, two million cubic yards of debris have been removed, and volunteers told FOX 5 they believe that number will rise another million.
Jason Stewart is one of the volunteers working to help clean up the area. One day while he was out, he carved a cross in a stump. Stewart said he'd never carved a cross in wood, but he did it because he wanted to give people hope.
Meanwhile, an Albany business owner was hard at work on another project. Tom Gieryic, of Tom Gieryics Automotive Repair, knew the cleanup crews' equipment wasn't holding up, and the chainsaws were breaking. Gieryic got on the phone with his suppliers, and together they were able to generate $18,000 worth of equipment.
However, they still needed more.
Thursday, Gieryic was asked if the volunteers could sell the wood crosses at his business to which he agreed. All the proceeds go toward purchasing more equipment, and 80 people showed up wanting the crosses.
The cross sales continued through the weekend and in three afternoons they raised more than $10,000.
To date, Gieryic has handed out 44 chainsaws to volunteers who will get to keep the chainsaws.
The need in Albany is far from over. Volunteers need Chaps because they're cutting their legs and are having to get stitches. They need helmets with face shields, ear protection, and eye protection.
Meanwhile, Gieryic believes something good is coming out of the storm because the community has rallied together, working around the clock to help each other out. He said the true heroes are the volunteers.
A GoFundMe page has been set up called Albany Chain Gang Chainsaw Fund. If you would like to donate, click here.