Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida
After Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle, retired Army Officer Andy Cornett wasted no time getting to work. He called Fr. Michael at St. Dominic in Bay County to see how he could help. The day following landfall, Andy began helping the parish set itself up as a receiving area for donated resources, and within days it became a major resource for the area.
Soon the parish campus filled with debris was quickly transformed to accommodate tractor trailers filled with donated materials. Hundreds of cars looking for emergency support lined the street to the church. Volunteers provided an average of 3,000 hot meals a day. This massive undertaking was made possible through the organizational and leadership skills of Andy, who developed during his service to his country, and his team that managed the operation.
One day Andy slipped and fell while offloading pallets of water from an 18-wheeler. He broke his arm and was immediately taken to the only open emergency room at the time. Despite a break that required surgery and subsequent rehab, he was back in command the very next morning serving those in need and sporting a sizable cast.
Andy began as a simple volunteer responding to a palpable need, and within days was asked to help lead the response efforts to 5 distribution sites serving 81,000 individuals over 7 weeks. He managed over 4,000 volunteers who recorded over 25,000 volunteer hours. The effort served as estimated 150,000 hot meals, including a sit-down Thanksgiving meal for 2,000 people.
“Andy is a very humble servant,” said Most Reverend William A. Wack, CSC Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee. “His efforts and leadership, at a time of great turmoil and tragedy in his community, is an inspiring story of God’s gifts being put to work for his Glory,”
The culture of any institution is a reflection of leadership. Leadership not only responded to the material necessities of those looking for help but insisted that every volunteer saw their role to be that beacon of light on the hill. Along with goods and food, all received Christ in smiles, hugs, prayers and comforting ears as they moved through campus.
Andy has lived a life of service. The number of lives he has impacted cannot be quantified. Once the parishioners closed their disaster relief services so they could turn their attention on their own recovery, Andy continued to serve the long-term recovery of the community by transitioning his help to the local Catholic Charities office. There he now coordinates mission trips by groups from outside the area and diocese who seek opportunities to help.
He eagerly looks forward to the day when his services are no longer needed to respond to Hurricane Michael and he can return his focus on prison ministry. Over the year, he has volunteered with the Red Cross and a half a dozen other organizations in the area.
Andy’s motto is this: “God is good. Let all who encounter you every day, encounter Christ.”