Although the National Weather Service was not calling it a “Winter Storm Watch,” gun shy officials in Atlanta were – as the signs over the Interstate reflected. This was in advance of the what the NWS was actually calling Thursday night a “Significant Weather Advisory.” There was a possibility of winter weather overnight and along with it the possibility of black ice this morning.
While Atlanta officials were making sure that people were better prepared than they were last week, members of Georgia Jeepers were gearing up to offer assistance should they be needed…. again. The group was hailed as heroes in the wake of last week’s winter storm, helping hundreds of people who were caught unprepared for the conditions in Atlanta.
“We posted on Facebook about people in need through another Facebook page called ‘Snowed in Atlanta,’ we saw where these people were in need and posted a basic dispatch out to jeepers,” said Tommy Cope with Georgia Jeepers. “They would in turn see if they were near the persons in need of help and whoever was closer would go.
We pulled people from ditches, pulled people up hills, took people back to safety, took kids from school to home, brought water and blankets to those in need of warmth, even dispatched a jeeper to pick up a solider from Afghanistan at the airport. Over the thee days I would say we helped over 400 people and pulled over 100 cars.”
And what prompted them to do it?
“Just not being able to sleep thinking that there are so many out there in need, and knowing that we can make it to them,” Cope said. “Every person out there is a loved one, someone’s family, I know we would not want our family stuck in freezing temps with nowhere to go.”
It wasn’t always easy though.
“The most difficult part was getting to them, and knowing that time was not on our side,” he said. “We could only go so fast without sliding around ourselves. Hearing people in need and knowing that there is a medical emergency with someone stuck is really hard on you.”
However, the whole experience was very rewarding, Cope said, citing one instance that stands out in his mind.
“ We picked up a family that was our neighbors and we did not even know it,” he said. “But more memorable than that was just seeing the relief on people faces knowing that someone was there to help.”
Cope said there were so many people from Georgia Jeepers who were worthy of special thanks.
“Bobby Murphy, Todd Raines, Joey Johnson, John Harper, Justin Buice, Emerson Parker, Jeremy Adams, David Garcia, Thomas Boyd, Jesse Flickinger, Christy Mote, and every single other Jeeper person who was helping,” he said.
Headquartered in Loganville, Georgia Jeepers was a popular entry in the Walton County Christmas Parades in Monroe and Loganville this year. The group first formed in the 1980s and Cope said even back then he was impressed by them.
“As a young teen I use to ride with them and I saw how this club of jeepers interacted with each other and how others were there to help others on the trails, making that mark on me that I did not forget,” he said. “As the original group dispersed over the years, I ended up buying a jeep about five years ago, and talked with the president of the old jeep club “Billy Waters” and asked him if I could use the name and create a new Georgia Jeepers. So we did!”
But in the new version of Georgia Jeepers, Cope said the group has added a new dimension – one of faith.
“The only difference between what use to be and how it is now is that we are Jeepers for Christ! We are about bringing others in to teach them how to have a better relationship with Christ and how it is to follow him,” Cope said. “We are currently at 3250 members on our Home Facebook page, 1096 on our Group Facebook page and 647 on our web page www.georgiajeepers.org.
Although the group is called Georgia Jeepers, Cope said the membership is actually worldwide. And to join you just have to share the mission.
“We Love the outdoors and have many passions, but the most important is Sharing the love of JESUS CHRIST. Another passion of ours is Jeeping/ Wheeling off road. We thought by starting the Jeepers page we could bring these passions together and create a off road group with the mindset of SERVING OTHERS, and REACHING out to those in need,” Cope said. “We are so blessed to be called upon to do this. We want to show others the love of Christ and what it means to be a Christ follower. We have met so many wonderful people who share the same passions in giving. It is so awesome to see GOD moving in the group. We all are proud jeep owners and use our jeeps for what they are made for, going through rivers, climbing rocks or hitting some dusty trails. We are always sharing the outdoors together.”
Cope, who heads up the group with his wife, Angie, said last week was the first time the Jeepers had offered their help in the case of a storm, but it would not be the last. And the post on the Facebook page as soon as the Significant Weather Advisor went out gave testament to that fact. It reads:
Jeepers. For all who are on the ERT list, (emergency response team) for Georgia Jeepers, We will be posting weather updates and request from people that need help from the Bert show, Fox 5, and snowed out Atlanta, if you see the post and they are in your area, be ready to go. We won’t be able to call every person to dispatch to that area. If you can get yourself a bright vest. Flashlight, and use your hazards, never do a recovery alone. We will be posting on the home Facebook page and on the group page. Make sure you check both pages..