CENTREVILLE, Va. — The death toll in the Bahamas is rising as families work to salvage what's left of their homes.
Michael Brewer, a veteran from Centreville, Va., recently returned from volunteering in the Hurricane Dorian-ravaged island with the non-profit AVERT or American Volunteer Emergency Response Team.
"Everywhere you look, things are broken. There’s nothing standing," Brewer said.
He said the island is just starting to regain a cellphone signal and some still don't know whether or not their family members are dead or alive.
Brewer said he has felt called to serve from a young age.
Coming from a military family, he joined the army in 1999 and served until 2007, spending some time in Afghanistan.
Back home in Centreville, he served as a boy scout troop leader for his sons.
A few years ago, he became the Executive Director of Operations for AVERT so he could help beyond his DMV community.
"It comes from the same place," Brewer said. "It’s all a matter of doing what you can do as a citizen to help those who need help."
He has been to Texas, Florida, and then Puerto Rico to help with disaster relief.
"Our organization learned a very hard lesson in Puerto Rico," he said. "We saw a lot of supplies sitting at the airport that didn’t go anywhere. They ended up throwing away relief aid when there's families that really could have used that."
Coordinating logistics became their mission in the Bahamas.
Basically, the team wanted to make sure all of the donations that were collected actually made it to the people in need, unlike what happened in Puerto Rico.
"It was a daily wrap up of, 'What are you short? What do you need?' And then we'd go to all these different supply locations and figure out who had what, load it up in the truck and get it there," Brewer said.
He said it wasn't difficult to find the motivation to keep going. He'd look around and see a kid's bicycle standing upright among the rubble and think about his own family -- how hurricanes are a great equalizer. This could happen to anyone.
The next project for Brewer's team is trying to send over a school bus converted into a mobile medical center, so doctors can reach families throughout the island.
You can contribute to AVERT's efforts here.
Jess Arnold is a reporter for WUSA9. Follow her on Twitter at @JessArnoldTV.