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Albany storm volunteer honored with Jefferson Award

Albany storm volunteer Wendy Matthews is honored with the May 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.

Wendy Matthew is May's recipient. When the January storms hit Albany landmarks like the Museum of Art, Matthews had a firsthand look at all the damage from the property she manages across the street from the museum.

“When I came to check out our properties here, we noticed it had been damaged by the museum of art. The entire roof landed on all of our buildings,” she said.

Once she realized how widespread the damage was, including to her own Albany home and business, she tapped into her connections and got to work.

“Being a real estate broker and a property manager, I know many, many people, and I just like to help people,” she said.

That experience came in hand when it came to supporting these relief efforts across the county.

“In my job, I am certified by the State of Georgia to hold trust funds, so I was able to collect funds, keep them in trust for the chainsaw crews,” she said.

Matthews also helped coordinate volunteers with people who needed help based on what she was seeing on Facebook, and that role even extended to coordinating the supplies at the distribution center too.

“Someone couldn’t be there all the time, so what I would do is load up my van, unload things here, collect things here, load up my van, take them over to the storage unit and make sure we had all the supplies we needed,” she said.

All that, despite a big obstacle she faced herself in the midst of recovery.

“Ten days after storm 2, I had surgery, and I was down for about a month and a half,” Matthews said. “And while I was down, I was still able to get on Facebook because I couldn’t do anything since I was sitting in bed.”

Matthews still works as one of the recovery coordinators and said they’re wrapping up what’s left from the first storm, but the entire process isn’t over yet, especially as their volunteer numbers shrink.

“The small groups, they’re just worn out,” she said. “I know some of our crews have been hurt. Some of them, their families are stressed, and they need to be at home with their families, their children, have their regular home life as well. But having new, fresh faces would help tremendously with getting these houses taken care of.”

Matthews said she hopes this will get even more people involved in the community as a whole.

“So many people just ignore what’s going on,” she said. “They don’t involve themselves in politics. They don’t involve themselves in the community, and I think more people need to do that.”

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