When she agreed to help with the Hurricane Katrina rebuild several years ago, Pilot Mountain resident Sharon Chilton-Moser had no idea that would lead to a full-time career as a volunteer. But she said God knew what He was doing.
“I grew up on Ararat Road and lived there until I went off to college,” Chilton-Moser said. “I swore I would never come back, because that’s what we all do, we want to be better than what we really are. But you cannot bleach the blue out of my collar … I’m a Southern redneck girl.
“The Bible said God wired us the way we should be, and our unique skills mesh together to work in His way,” she said.
Her mother and father, Ann and Kenneth Chilton, raised Chilton-Moser and her siblings to help in the community. She said they grew up around the Ararat-Longhill Ruritan Club, the Ararat Volunteer Fire Department, the Pilot Mountain Rescue Squad and the church.
“We were taught to work and to serve and not just to be about ourselves, because that’s what the Bible teaches us to do.”
After graduating from Wake Forest University with a degree in biology, Chilton-Moser worked for a long time selling building supplies through several corporate businesses, including Lowe’s Home Improvement.
“Shortly after we got married, Brian (Moser) had a bout with diverticulitis, which was unusual for a man in his early 30s,” she said. “That was our first wake-up call that we needed to change, so I went back to school.”
Chilton-Moser received a degree in construction management from North Carolina A&T University.
“When I graduated, I thought I would drive around a big truck and supervise big commercial construction jobs,” she said. “God gives you desires of the heart, they just aren’t necessarily the way you think He’s going to give them to you.”
In her role as a full-time volunteer with the North Carolina Baptist Men organization, she said, “I do drive around in a big truck, just not for a company, and some of what I supervise is construction, but it’s just not big commercial jobs and I don’t get paid for it.”
Chilton-Moser was offered several well-paying jobs after graduating, but they would have required her to relocate and that was not something she was willing to do. She said Brian’s job in pricing and contracts at EPES Transport in Greensboro had security and he had been working there for “Christian folks” since he finished college.
“We weren’t about to relocate for fly-by-the-seat of your pants as construction was,” she said.
So there she was with no job and Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.
“When Alan (Branch, her minister at the time) asked who wanted to go work after Hurricane Katrina, I said sure I can do it. But my heart wasn’t necessarily in it, I was just going to help out,” she said.
She went with the group and helped cut trees, then she started meeting people in the N.C. Baptist Men’s organization. “Then I was asked, can you do this project with Baptist Builders, and then, can you do this school project? Then it was, can you haul this trailer?”
Chilton-Moser explained that during this time with no paying job, “Every time I would pray, Lord I need a job, a job would come up, but it wouldn’t be a paying job. Apparently I wasn’t being detailed enough in my prayers.”
Most people don’t realize the amount of work that goes into planning and preparing for the projects until they’ve been a full-time volunteer, Chilton-Moser said. Most volunteers just show up to do the work, but aren’t involved in the planning, coordinating and behind-the-scenes part.
The local volunteer spends her time working with N.C. Baptist Men’s Disaster Relief efforts as well as in Student Ministries, which are two of the largest ministries of the N.C. Baptist Men’s group. She also has aided in Baptist Build projects.
“Originally the organization started under North Carolina Baptist Men,” said Chilton-Moser in clarifying that women are members of the Baptist Men organization. “It is part of (the Baptist church’s) history, but it is also a great conversation starter when you walk up to a person’s home and tell them, as a woman, that you are there to help them as part of the N.C. Baptist Men.
“A good half of us are women, there are just not as many of us in leadership positions, because most of the leaders are 55-plus. We have younger (women) who volunteer, but there are less of them because they have families and have jobs.”
The N.C. Baptist Men partners with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army as well as state agencies, so in cases of major disasters, the group responds to provide anything from mobile laundry and shower units to mass feedings to chaplaincy, from temporary child care so people can go to work or to see insurance agents to disaster recovery such as tree removal, tarping roofs and more.
The group only responds out of state if it is requested by the Red Cross, Salvation Army, at the request of that state’s Baptist Convention, or the request of the North American Mission Board, which is Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
“In disaster relief, when there isn’t a disaster, you keep up with procedures, training, equipment, maintenance, meetings and planning — the things that make you more efficient,” said Chilton-Moser, who with her father are caretakers for one of the statewide organization’s mobile shower units. She explained that the group can be on alert when they know hurricanes are headed toward land, or they could respond in “no notice” situations like when a tornado hits overnight or flash flooding.
As Hurricane Sandy was hitting the Northeast coast, Chilton-Moser was in a truck headed toward the heart of the storm in New Jersey with a handful of other N.C. Baptist Men volunteers. Once in New Jersey, her North Carolina team supervised the Southern Baptist response for New Jersey. She was there for 31 days.
“We are a ministry. If you are a victim of a disaster, we may help you do your laundry, give you a hot meal, that’s how we share our ministry with you,” she said.
Chilton-Moser, through her work in Student Ministries, coordinates Deep Impact missions, during which middle and high school camps are put on across the state and in other countries during the summer, allowing those youth to have an opportunity to be involved in missions through building projects, as well as evangelism and prayer walks.
“Of the many organizations working in disaster relief, I believe we have to reach out to (victims) in a mission mindset. You can’t wait on them to come us to volunteer,” she said of working with the youth to teach them to reach out to others. “When you go outside your door, he wants us to be his witnesses. There are hurting people everywhere.”
She believes everybody is called to serve in a different way, and that disaster relief isn’t for everyone. “But we’re all called to support each other in prayer and Christian love,” Chilton-Moser said.
“I spent right at 100 nights away from home last year,” she said, explaining that those nights included planned camps like Deep Impact, some planned training, planned Baptist Builds as well as Disaster Relief efforts.
In everything Chilton-Moser does, she is reimbursed for expenses but is not paid.
“Everything we do, we’re on our dime,” she said. “If I’m pulling the trailer, I get reimbursed for the fuel only, not for mileage.”
She said she worried a lot about where the funding would come from when she started, but not so much anymore. “You charge on credit card and when you get home you worry about how to pay it off. I used to think about it a lot, but God provides for you, and we don’t live extravagantly.”
The volunteers sleep in churches wherever they go. “So you get good at indoor camping. You appreciate your pillowtop mattress and having a shower off your bedroom at home.”
She laughed as she talked about sleeping in a closet so you get the room to yourself, because in a Sunday school room you have to share the room with others, or being able to sleep in a nursery because they have the little bathrooms with toddler toilets.
Her husband, Brian, also is a volunteer with N.C. Baptist Men, but most of what he does is behind-the-scenes from his office like deployment and training.
“A lot of our volunteers are volunteers in other parts of their communities — in their churches, fire departments, community organizations. And I get to work with the coolest people,” she said.
Chilton-Moser said she likes the saying, “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”
“The government is doing good to keep the road open, getting schools up and running and basic services provided. They don’t have the staff to worry about your house and individual situation,” she said of why N.C. Baptist Men is so important.
And she said being a part of Disaster Relief does make her aware of her surroundings. “When I drive through a neighborhood, I look at where the trees are. One of the first things I notice is where the bodies of water are,” she said.
Those interested in volunteering, but who may not be attached to a group and aren’t allowed to volunteer as an individual, can service through the N.C. Baptist Men group.
“Everybody is needed (to help in disasters), but everybody can’t provide the infrastructure to make it happen. You don’t have to be a member of a Southern Baptist church to volunteer,” Chilton-Moser said.
“In my head I know I could quit any time, but in my heart, God won’t let me.”