Red Cross Volunteers Among First Helping Georgia Tornado Victims

Christopher Quinn, American Red Cross of Georgia Public Affairs Volunteer

Tuesday, April 4th, 2023

“We are the eyes and ears on the ground,” Frank Spears reminds his Red Cross Disaster Assessment Team before leading them into one of many neighborhoods plowed under by the spate of tornadoes that rolled across the South and central Georgia on March 24 and 26.

His six damage assessors are tasked with laying a cornerstone for American Red Cross work that could go on for weeks in West Point, Georgia. These teams track down and digitally document every home that has damage in the little town on the Chattahoochee River in southwest Georgia.

The photographs, addresses, and a brief description of what they see are fed from their smartphones into a database that helps Red Cross responders estimate the amounts and types of help an area needs and set its agenda to provide ongoing support to those most impacted by the storm.

Spears’ team is among the first to show up after local emergency workers and linemen finish their work.

From Louisiana to Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, hundreds of Red Cross volunteers and staff members are sent to the largely rural communities ravaged by the storms. They begin offering immediate help by opening shelters and offering food and water while preparing for the long work of rebuilding.

“They are going in while the ground is still warm,” Spears said of his team. He arrived on March 26, the morning after the powerful Saturday night storms flattened a neighborhood north of downtown in the inequitable way that only tornadoes can – scattering everything that was one home across an acre, leaving another house 100 feet away with only a single piece of fascia pulled askew.

“This is mother lode right here,” Spears said, looking over the toppled trees and shattered homes while a few property owners showed up to sift the debris for vestiges of their lives.

There was little even for Kyle Williams to pick through. A home that had been his late grandmother’s and a commercial building from which she ran a florist shop were completely gone.

Williams, who lives in nearby LaGrange, said a friend texted him a picture Sunday morning of a concrete floor with broken lumber and furniture, insulation, bricks, twisted tin, and shattered glass scattered across it. He looked at it and texted back, “What’s that?”

His friend replied, “That’s your property.”

“Everything is gone. I never thought it would be leveled,” Williams said. “It’s good I wasn’t living in it. I’d be dead.”

In the middle of the community, Bethel Baptist Church’s roof had collapsed completely into the sanctuary. Its brick walls were cracked and battered, but mostly standing. Its parking lot served as a station for the Salvation Army to set up feeding. A church official looking over the site said a new pastor had been in his office for only a month.

Spears’ team got their street assignments and began walking and documenting the damage. Wesley Bruce stood at a respectful distance from the homes, snapping photos and recording data. The Red Cross volunteer spent seven years helping the Red Cross respond to fires in and around his McDonough, Georgia community before trying his hand as a damage assessor.

“I just like helping people,” he said.

Spears pushes the team to not only document the damaged homes but also the untouched ones, which will help the Red Cross set the boundaries of the damaged area.

“It’s really rewarding,” Spears said, knowing the assessors’ work is setting the foundation for important work the Red Cross will do in the coming weeks. “And 90 percent of Red Cross work is done by volunteers.”

People in need of emergency assistance are asked to call 1-800 RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or go to You can also download the free American Red Cross Emergency App to help protect yourself and your loved ones.

Search “American Red Cross” in app stores or visit The app is also compatible with Apple Watch and Android wearable devices.

YOU CAN HELP make a difference in the lives of people affected by tornadoes and storms in the South. Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733- 2767), or text the word TORNADO to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to, and help people recover from these disasters. This includes providing food, shelter, relief supplies, emotional support, recovery planning, and other assistance. Ensure your donation helps people affected by Southern Tornadoes & Storms by choosing that option on or through 1-800-RED CROSS (800-733-2767).