SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Any time there is a need in this community, volunteers don't hesitate to step up and lend a hand. Today, a thank you to the volunteers with the Salvation Army, many of whom responded to the explosion at the Imperial Sugar refinery.
No one is more grateful for their support than the refinery's chief executive officer, John Sheptor. There was a standing ovation for the man who led the refinery through its darkest hours. The Salvation Army invited Sheptor to speak at their annual award ceremony this afternoon. "I hope the rest of my life I never lose the humility that I've learned over these last three months with you as a community," Sheptor said.
He has seen first hand, many times over, how vital these volunteers are. Since the refinery exploded on February 7, the Salvation Army has been at the plant every day serving meals and providing a shoulder to lean on.
"You were there to comfort, to support to hold a hand, you were there at the entrances of the hospitals where people were brought to help families connect," said Sheptor at the ceremony.
Virginia and Jim Banks are two of the volunteers who offered their help and they haven't stopped. For the past three months, they've been giving rides to the burn center in Augusta so family and friends can visit their loved ones who were injured in the blast. Jim said, "I thought it was just going to be that week but we've come to know the families and thoroughly enjoy just meeting with the family. We felt it was a time we could lift their spirits."
"It blessed me," said Virginia. "It really was a blessing to go to Augusta and visit with families. We feel now we are one big family."
Sheptor said it's that sense of family and the strong religious convictions of these volunteers that made it possible to recover from such a tragedy. "This country is founded on communities like Savannah, Georgia," he said. "The faith the caring the sacrifice, the friendship."
Sheptor said words don't begin to express his gratitude to these volunteers. But to the volunteers, that simple thank you means so much.
The cleanup is still going on at the sugar refinery. Sheptor said sometime next month, crews will finally be able to tear down the three sugar silos that burned for days.