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Preston County supervisor Mark Teets helps out after Maui wildfires - 3/6/24
posted by: Davin White

(Editor's Note: A version of this story appeared in the March edition of the WVDA's Market Bulletin.) 

Shortly after intense and deadly wildfires raged on Maui in August, devastating the historic town of Lahaina and displacing residents, Mark Teets got a call. Teets, a district supervisor with the Monongahela Conservation District, was in his barn in the Aurora area of Preston County when he learned that Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization that partners with his church, was sending volunteers to the Hawaiian island. So one week in mid-September, Teets had flown to Maui, joining others to help those in greatest need not rebuild, but just meet their basic necessities.

Teets spent a lot of the time he was there, from Sept. 10-16, building a tent camp. He and his fellow volunteers also helped with food distribution and built temporary kitchens and showers while on Maui. There was also recovery of residents’ personal items, chainsaw work and tarping roofs where needed. 

Teets took a short break from a busy lambing season in early February to discuss his experience, and what he saw while in Lahaina.

Every island resident you ran into had lost someone, he said. At the time, just one month after the devastating wildfires, there was no rebuilding in Lahaina.

“There was very little of the town that was still standing,” he said. 

The fires burned so hot it melted the aluminum out of some car engines, as melted pools of metal could be seen laying on the ground beneath the burnt-out husks of vehicles. 

“It was hot enough, the glass melted,” he said.

He’d been told that past sugarcane fields on Maui had been allowed to grow thick with brush, which may have contributed to fueling the flames last summer. 

Teets’s time on Maui was not his first experience with helping those after a disaster, and it won’t be his last. He’s been to Florida with Samaritan’s Purse to help out after hurricanes. In April, he’s going to Mayfield, Ky., and will be doing carpentry work to help rebuild after a devastating 2021 tornado.

“And if it wasn’t for my wife and my daughter-in-law, I couldn’t go do those things,” he said. 

The support of his wife, LaDeana, and daughter-in-law, Rebecca, to keep the Aurora farm going allows Teets to go help when the need is greatest. And as long as they’re all in agreement that he can go, he will.    

When asked if he considers the volunteer work a calling, Teets said, “You know for me, I like to think if I needed help, someone would be there for me.”



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