The (real) Person of the Year

Meredith Flynn —  December 19, 2013
Disaster Relief volunteers served across the state after several tornadoes Nov. 17, including one in Brookport in southern Illinois.

Disaster Relief volunteers served across the state after several tornadoes Nov. 17, including one in Brookport in southern Illinois.


When Time magazine announced the new pope as its person of the year, we were reminded that sometimes the publication has not chosen an individual, or even a person.

Time named “the computer” as its entity of the year in 1982, and in 2011, following the Occupy movement and the “Arab spring” uprisings in the Middle East, the “honor” went to “the protester.”

So it’s not surprising that the village of Sturgis, South Dakota, chose not a single person to receive its annual Volunteer of the Year award, but a group. And that group is Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Volunteers.

When Sturgis was hit with a winter storm in October, SBDR sent 110 relief workers in five teams to help them dig out. About 50 of those volunteers were from Illinois.

The town council noted in their announcement last week that many of the people receiving assistance were elderly or disabled, and the time given amounted to 576 days of work. Sturgis is grateful.

So are many others.

“Thank God for you all showing up to Mary Lou’s house in Rapid City, SD, to help with all the trees and branches due to the snow storm,” one couple who look after their elderly neighbor wrote to the Illinois team that aided them. “We are praising God and thanking Him for each one of you who made it all possible to come out to South Dakota and serve God.”

And when Rex Alexander, IBSA’s DR mobilization director, summed up the recent response to tornadoes in Illinois, he said there were more volunteers and offers of assistance than he had ever seen. Just before Christmas, 250 relief workers finished up their service in Washington and other communities laid waste by twisters in mid-November.

A new NAMB video shows Illinois residents picking through the remnants of their homes, weeping not so much at their loss, but in gratitude for the aid of strangers in yellow shirts.

“It’s raining, it’s cold, it’s nasty,” said a tearful Melissa Helfin outside her home. “And all these people – they’re here with chainsaws and pulling limbs and – it’s amazing…. I don’t know what we would have done, honestly. And it’s such a blessing.”

If we offered a “Person of the Year” award, it would be to the whole group who share Jesus Christ with a Bible in one hand and a spatula, mop, or chainsaw in the other.

Meredith Flynn


Meredith is managing editor of the Illinois Baptist newspaper.

One response to The (real) Person of the Year


    Great article. Illinois stepped up to the many challenges of 2013 with pure hearts of service. The personal testimony through the work of Illinois disaster relief volunteers made a life-changing difference in the lives of victims of Winter Storm ATLAS and the entire Black Hills, South Dakota community.