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Storm recovery group organizer honored with Jefferson Award

FOX 31 continues to honor our local heroes with the Jefferson Awards.

The Jefferson Award is the nation's longest standing and most prestigious organization dedicated to celebrating public service.

Marla Edmonds is January’s recipient. After severe weather hit Albany at the start of 2017, she was helping a family member clean up when she realized how widespread the damage was.

“I thought, ‘This is not just this area. This is all over,’” she said. “And I knew at that moment it was too big for any one person or any one group or organization to do it.”

She said her next step was instinctive—to turn to a place where news and information could reach as many people as possible: Facebook. And so the “Albany GA Storm/Tornado Recovery 2017 Help Page” was born.

“In like an hour, I checked it, and there were like 200 people,” Edmonds said. “And I said, ‘Wow, this town needs some way — I mean, it was our lifeline. And so, I just started saying, ‘Share it, share it, share it.’”

The community heeded that request, with more than 15,000 people part of the group less than two months later as storm recovery continues.

Whether members have joined to find help for themselves or others or to offer their own support or aid, everyone has a place and encouragement from Edmonds.

“Our list makers, our matchmakers — if you’ve joined the page, I’m giving you a job. And we try to keep it real positive.”

But Edmonds didn’t stay behind the screen, as she went out to damaged areas to clean up and assist where she could, partaking the volunteer work she was also helping to facilitate.

“I actually love yard work myself, and so I’ve actually loved getting out there and doing it,” she said.

Edmonds said her own experience dealing with the Christmas Day floods not too long before was part of her motivation to give so much time and effort to the area’s recovery.

“People need people, and it’s OK to need someone,” she said.

She also tapped into what she knows as a pain management therapist.

“There have been several days where I’ve had the map laid out on the therapy table, and I would just look, and I thought, this is pain management of a different sort, just on a much larger scale,” Edmonds said.

The Albany native said seeing so many people come together like this is a testament to the residents of her hometown.

“It’s made me a lot more proud of where I came from. I think it’s made a lot of people a lot more proud of where they came from,” she said.

Edmonds said there's still plenty to be done in the community, so if you're interested in helping, visit the storm relief Facebook page.

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