"Army Of Everyone" Helps Disaster Victims

Like many tornado survivors, 64-year-old Marilynn Fischer of Lake Mack, Fla., is rebuilding her life, one piece at a time, CBS News national correspondent Byron Pitts reports.

Fischer is surrounded by volunteers from around the country. They're all part of a Christian non-profit organization called ACTS — Active Community Team Services. David Canther, a preacher who left the pulpit, founded ACTS three years ago.

"I love to rally businesspeople from all over, college students, high school students, to be on site after a disaster happens within 24 hours," Canther says.

Canther calls this effort "An Army of Everyone." "Go teams" bring food, water, supplies and medical services straight into disaster zones.

When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, ACTS hit the ground.

"There were trees all over the main highways and and we're cutting oour way in," Canther says of how ACTS got to the Gulf Coast. "Man, we were determined. It was all through the night. It took us five hours to go five miles."

Five hours turned into nine months. In that time, ACTS distributed more than $23 million in donated goods and served nearly half a million hot meals.

ACTS has never received a dime from the federal or any state government. Everything has come from private donations. The goal was to feed both the body and the soul.

"They need emotional healing. They have no theatre, no TV for weeks. And they're hungry for more than food," Canther says of the soundstages that house musical performances and that provide what he calls "emotional therapy."

There are 12,000 volunteers nationwide providing food and fellowship, including students from Christian colleges and high schools who are given time off from class when disasters strike.

"When I know that I have the ability to help somebody in need, it makes me feel good to know that they've been helped and I made a difference," says Jessica Treto, a 16-year old student volunteer.

They've made a difference in Fischer's life. She suffered a broken hand and fractured collarbone from that tornado that destroyed her home a month ago. Her husband is still in the hospital. And she's still waiting on FEMA.

"They're slower than Moses," Fischer says.

"There's a huge gap, a hole. Faith-based groups and others fill tremendous needs. We mobilize quickly. We don't have to be paid. We do it quickly. We love to do it efficiently," Canther says.

When the kids come out and they're sweeping and picking up, Fischer says she hugs them and says, "I tell them thanks and I appreciate what they are doing. And I just about cry on their shoulder because they've been so good to us."



To read more about ACTS, please click here.

  • Melissa McNamara

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