'Chain gang' members talk year of cleanup

Shane Waller (left), Teresa Knight (middle) and Tom Gieryic (right), were three of the many volunteers who helped people cleanup after the storm. (Source: WALB)
Shane Waller (left), Teresa Knight (middle) and Tom Gieryic (right), were three of the many volunteers who helped people cleanup after the storm. (Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)
(Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - If you were impacted by January's storms in Dougherty County, it's likely you met members of the self-dubbed 'chainsaw gang.'

If you followed the sound of chainsaws in Dougherty County during the past year, you may have found one of three individuals, Teresa Knight, Tom Gieryic and Shane Waller.

"I was on the front row seat to the miracles God did," explained Knight as she looks back at the generosity she saw in the last year.

She, Gieryic and Waller are just three of the dozens of individuals who gave up their time to help others after the storms.

"We enjoyed helped everybody," said Gieryic.

All three cleaned in various neighborhoods in small groups for most of January. It wasn't until later when they crossed paths.

"I remember the guys saying what do we do and I said we go to work," recalled Waller as he remembers staring at streets impassable due to debris.

At the time, all he had was some old clothes and his 'backyard' chainsaw. When he met Gieryic and Knight, he was given much better equipment to keep up with all of the work he was doing.

"Teaming up with them, life got so much easier for me," explained Gieryic.

Knight did some dirty work, but mostly she was in charge of the operations, meeting with homeowners and sending crews to the many disastrous locations.

"At the beginning, it was the emergency stuff," explained Gieryic, recalling how the group came about. "Trees that were on houses, cars, where they couldn't get out. Then we started getting into what I call aesthetics, the dangerous trees."

Through February, then March, April, all the way up through the summer's end, the chainsaw crews worked house by house.

"I just knew there were people out here who weren't going to have the means, resources to pay to have this done," said Waller.

But it was those people and other generous community members who donated snacks, water and gas to the crews.

"It was people like that who kept us going. It was the fuel for us," said Waller. He smiled as he began calling of names of people he met during the cleanup journey.

Cleanup was the original goal, but building community and making lifelong friends came as a result.

"All of a sudden we just ended up with these people that we probably would not have had the connections we've as, as deep as we've had, had it not been from the storms," said Knight.

Since the storms, members of the chainsaw gang have spoken with other volunteer leaders in other cities throughout South Georgia.

They've formed a group called the South Georgia Disasters.

If another weather incident occurs, they're hoping they'll be able to take what they learned from the January storms and use it to better help people in the future.

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