CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Seventy-mile-per-hour straight-line winds cut a path of destruction across a large portion of Clarksville in late October.
Nine days later and there were still homeowners dealing with power outages and storm damage.
“We heard a big crunch. We didn’t realize that was there,” said Tina McElroy. Her property is one of 138 recovery jobs Carolyn Watson and her team will tackle.
“We’re the Calvary; we’re coming to save the day,” said Watson. “If we don’t help them, they may not get help. They can’t afford a tree service.”
For the past 17 years, 73-year-old Watson, a real estate agent, has also been the Director of the Cumberland Baptist Association of Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief, a trained and certified volunteer group which is part of the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Watson and her team of volunteers out of Clarksville help anyone, anywhere clean up after any natural disaster for free. Her leadership has helped thousands of people over the years.
“She organizes, she coordinates, she recruits, she trains, plus she goes out and does the work, oversees them while they do the work,” said Wesley Jones, a Tennessee Disaster Relief Specialist.
Watson said she has worked every major disaster since 9/11.
“Every hurricane that has hit, the major tornadoes that have gone through that have been all over the news, even the small ones that don’t make the news. This is the second time we’ve worked in Clarksville this year,” she explained.
Disaster recovery jobs take Watson and her team away from home days to weeks at a time. In Gatlinburg, she helped homeowners devastated by wildfires so they could start over.
“Our team had three pieces of equipment going because the houses that burned did not fall in but had to knock them in and taken them down to the road for the city of Gatlinburg to pick up the debris so we worked 12 sites up there,” she recalled.
Watson even went to Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
“Because I teach flood recovery for the state of Tennessee, I got a call saying we need you to take a team to Japan and help them with their flood recovery and show them how to do it correctly,” Watson said.
As for Tina McElroy, she’s grateful the cleanup at her home was free.
“I thank God for these people,” she said. “She’s definitely a hero. To be doing this as long as she is at her age; she’s definitely a hero.”
“She’s a hero in my book,” Jones said. “She just wants to serve people and love on people and share the Lord with them.”
While others see her as a hero, Watson sees herself more as a team motivator and a new friend for those who have been helped.
“We still keep in contact with people that we’ve helped years ago. We still know their names, their town and we keep up with them,” she said.
When clean-up is completed, Watson gifts a Bible with her team’s names inscribed on it so homeowners will remember them too.
Carolyn Watson was honored during a ceremony at Hyundai of Cool Springs on Wednesday. She received a plaque for her dedication to helping in disaster relief. The ceremony was part of News 2’s monthly recognition called Hyundai of Cool Springs Heroes.
Once a month News 2, along with Hyundai of Cool Springs, will highlight a public servant who goes above and beyond the call of duty.