Columbia, MS (WLOX) - Just before daybreak, the volunteers come down after a well deserved night's rest in the church family center. The main sanctuary was damaged by the tornado. The volunteers are greeted with signs of encouragement and thanks.
Already hard at work are church members who handle every detail about who goes where. Technology plays an important role. Chris Crawford is an IT volunteer.
"From a technical side, we've got a lot of stations that are set up to intake volunteer information so that we can track all of the volunteer hours that come through for every project that we issue out into the community. Right now, we've got over 180 work orders that have been submitted," Crawford explained.
Other volunteers get up even earlier, hard at work in the kitchen. One of them is Colleen Fabling.
"I love serving people. I grew up in a big family, and cooking breakfast was one of my favorite things for my family, and that's what I love to do for my ministry family," Fabling said.
Every day begins the same at Woodlawn Pentecostal Church, the heartbeat of this volunteer effort in Columbia.
It begins with a hot, hearty meal, and that is key for volunteer Curtis Conerly.
"We're real blessed to have these folks in here cooking for us every morning. Eggs and grits and sausage and all the things they cook for us. It's real important. It warms us up in the morning before we get out there in the cold," Conerly said.
For the men's pastor at the church, the Rev. Jay Carney, it's a reaffirmation of the goodness of mankind when all looks bleak.
"We've never been through anything like this before, and certainly their expression of love has been unmatched, and we were shocked and surprised but very appreciative," said Carney.
That shock and surprise has now turned into admiration for the volunteers that are helping bring a city back to life.
Since the tornado struck two days before Christmas, more than 3,000 volunteers have come in and out of Columbia and Marion County to lend a helping hand.