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Danville nonprofit receives Spirit of Virginia Award

Award recognizes ‘extraordinary people doing extraordinary things’

December 2023

Suzanne Youngkin and Gov. Glenn Youngkin participate in an assembly line to compile Blessing Buckets with God’s Pit Crew volunteers. The buckets contain necessities for communities that have been affected by a natural disaster. (Photo by Grace Mamon)

by Grace Mamon, Cardinal News

God’s Pit Crew, a Danville faith-based nonprofit that provides disaster relief, received the Spirit of Virginia Award on Nov. 17 from Gov. Glenn Youngkin and first lady Suzanne Youngkin.

The award, which is given out six times a year, was developed by the Youngkins to shine a light on the positive things happening in Virginia, the governor said at an event honoring the nonprofit in Danville.

“Headlines were identifying the bad and no one was talking about the good,” he said. “That’s what we’re here to do today, talk about the good.”

God’s Pit Crew was founded by Randy and Terri Johnson, who said they felt called to action in 1999. That year, an EF-5 tornado with winds measured by radar at over 300 mph killed 36 people and caused more than $1 billion in damage in and near the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. The Johnsons borrowed trucks and trailers and road-tripped from Virginia to deliver supplies.

Soon after, the Johnsons founded God’s Pit Crew, which now has 1,100 volunteers who help provide disaster relief nationwide.

Since 1999, it has responded to 175 major disasters in 30 states and 15 countries, Randy Johnson said at the event.

Last year, the organization provided eight homes for families affected by natural disasters, delivered more than 2.3 million pounds of supplies and distributed more than 30,000 “Blessing Buckets,” or tubs of necessities.

“Our immediate response team has cut thousands of trees off peoples’ homes, gutted out flooded houses, helped to chart countless roofs for families devastated by a tornado, a hurricane, a flood, an earthquake or a wildfire,” he said. “Our rebuilding team has built numerous churches, children’s homes, domestic violence shelters, elementary schools and homes for those affected by disaster.”

These volunteers bring passion, dedication and commitment to serving others, Youngkin said in an interview.

“They come to help, and that deserves recognition every day, not just once,” he said. “If everyone served this way, how much better would our nation be? How much better would our world be?”

After the ceremony, the Youngkins helped God’s Pit Crew volunteers fill Blessing Buckets with food, water, devotionals and other supplies to send off to communities that have been struck by a natural disaster.

Terri Johnson said that the organization is honored to receive the Spirit of Virginia Award.

“We always give all the glory back up to God, and this isn’t just for me and Randy,” she said. “This is for every volunteer.”

 This article comes from Cardinal News, an online nonprofit news agency based in Southwest Virginia.