Disaster Relief Group Rebuilds Lives by Tearing Down Homes

Published on March 29, 2023

Discover the inspiring story of Christ In Action, a 100% volunteer-driven organization that has been providing relief to disaster-stricken communities since 1998. From serving meals to volunteers in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, to helping rebuild hundreds of destroyed homes after Hurricane Katrina, CIA has made a significant impact on thousands of homeowners without ever accepting a cent. Learn how Bobcat® equipment has become a crucial part of its mission and how they continue to offer comfort and care for residents impacted by disasters. 

When disasters have struck since 1998, the 100% volunteer-driven organization Christ In Action (CIA) has sprung into action. 

In the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001, they served 55,000 meals to volunteers in the Pentagon parking lot. 

Soon thereafter, they traveled to New York and cooked 50,000 more for workers at Ground Zero. 

After Hurricane Katrina rocked the Southeast in 2005, they provided a half-million meals and helped rebuild hundreds of destroyed homes. 

And as their mission evolved, they turned to Bobcat® equipment to perform larger demolition work that manpower alone couldn’t tackle. 

“We realized that we could help people if their home is damaged beyond repair,” says Denny Nissley, President and founder of CIA. “I could put my rear-end in an excavator and clear their property so they can start to rebuild.” 

A Life Spent Rebuilding

Rebuild is the perfect word to describe Denny’s life. “When I was a teenager, I got involved with alcohol and drugs,” says Denny. “On April 3, 1977, I walked into a church and my life was so screwed up. I said, ‘God, if you’re real, you can have my life because I’m done with it.” 

Denny walked out of that same church a new man. One who, since that day, has committed his life to serving others in need. 

“I spent the next 20 years walking the streets of all 50 states and 20-some countries telling people what God’s done for me,” says Denny. His compassion has given rise to Christ In Action, which features a legion of 17,000 volunteers nationwide whose mission is to provide relief to disaster-stricken communities. And they’ve done it all for thousands of homeowners without ever accepting a cent. 

“Donors give us $50 or $100 a month — and when somebody gives money to the organization, it goes to boots on the ground,” says Denny. 

CIA depends heavily on one of its smartest investments: Bobcat excavators and compact track loaders. Their fleet includes five T870 compact track loaders, an E50 compact excavator and an E85 compact excavator.  

When a tornado rocked Kentucky in December 2021, CIA was there for nearly three months using their excavators and skid-steer loaders to help clear trees from homeowners’ properties and even tear down and remove unrepairable homes. “In the last 25 years, nobody I’ve met has had enough money to pay for house demolition,” Denny says, noting most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover home demolition. 

If the tornado wasn’t enough, heavy ice from a winter storm took down hundreds of trees in the same area of Kentucky, so CIA did what they do best — they stuck around to help clean that up, too. “We had five teams doing five different roads at a time,” recalls Denny. “We actually cleared more roads than the county did.” 

Bobcat Dealers Lend Helping Hand

Bobcat is a big part in helping CIA help residents across the country. “In my opinion, Bobcat is the best out there,” says Denny. “They have service centers everywhere. They have dealers everywhere. And when you’re doing demolition work, it’s hard on the equipment and we need parts.” 

Denny has found that Bobcat dealers, much like his caring volunteers, go above and beyond to keep CIA’s Bobcat fleet in service. 

Denny recalls how a dealer in Birmingham, Alabama was especially helpful in getting a replacement compact track loader out to his team when a machine was damaged. “He initially said he could get me one in a couple of weeks. But when I told him what we were doing, he asked if I could get it on a trailer. I said ‘yes’.” 

Within hours, the machine was fixed and ready to serve residents of a community ravaged by a tornado. “We probably worked on another 30 homes with that piece of Bobcat equipment. And if we hadn’t, that’s at least 30 people who would not have gotten help.” 

We probably worked on another 30 homes with that piece of Bobcat equipment. And if we hadn’t, that’s at least 30 people who would not have gotten help.

Denny Nissley

President / Christ In Action

Home demolition is only part of the story. In the precious days and weeks immediately following a disaster, CIA is there with more than excavators and compact track loaders. They provide comfort and care for both the residents impacted by the disaster and their selfless volunteers. 

“We have a 48-foot trailer that has showers,” says Denny. “We had 400 people a day sometimes use our showers. We have another trailer that has six toilets on it with a 1,000-gallon holding tank.” 

Following one of life’s most devasting moments, a helping hand goes a long way. Especially when it comes from volunteers — who feel like long-lost neighbors — providing critical restoration assistance and some comforts of home.  

“We want to love on the people,” says Denny, who delivers the same message for disaster-stricken homeowners across the country. “You are not forgotten. And we’re going to be here to help until we’re done.” 

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