ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–In the wake of Hurricane Ivan, hundreds of Alabama and Florida residents waited in lines extending for blocks for hot meals Sept. 19 at Southern Baptist Disaster Relief mobile kitchens stationed at area churches.
Jim Burton, director of the North American Mission Board’s volunteer mobilization team, said NAMB’s Disaster Relief Operations Center near Atlanta has received reports of people standing in lines extending five blocks from a mobile kitchen unit stationed at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
In Flomaton, Ala., a mobile kitchen stationed at Little Escambia Baptist Church operated a drive-thru service for cars lined up for at least two miles.
“We’re doing feeding sites where people are standing in line for blocks to come by and get our food,” Burton said. “Even though we have had logistical challenges, it has probably enhanced our ability to minister directly to victims because they’ve had to come to our feeding sites for the food, and many of them are at our churches which helps raise the visibility of those churches in those communities.”
Burton said thus far Southern Baptist mobile kitchens had prepared and distributed more than 20,000 meals following Hurricane Ivan, which made landfall Sept. 16 near Gulf Shores, Ala., before trekking across Alabama and the Florida panhandle, spawning flooding and tornadoes across the southeastern United States.
As of Sept. 20 more than 1,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers representing 15 state Baptist conventions were assisting victims of Hurricane Ivan’s remnants as far north as Wheeling, W.Va.
And disaster relief units from North Carolina and Tennessee are continuing their response to in-state flooding problems in western North Carolina and the Chattanooga, Tenn., area.
Southern Baptist volunteers in disaster relief responses typically prepare most of the meals distributed by the American Red Cross. Southern Baptists are the third-largest disaster relief agency in the country behind the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, with more than 28,000 trained volunteers on call for local, state and national emergencies.
Burton said meal distributions would increase significantly once American Red Cross vehicles are able to deliver meals into neighborhoods and communities decimated by the storm.
“Reports out of Pensacola are that it’s just devastated,” Burton said. “Ninety percent of cell towers are out. We know that much of the electricity is out. We know that fuel is in short supply and many of the roads are out.”
Burton said of the 60 disaster relief units currently on site in the hurricane-stricken region, about one-third of the units are mobile kitchens and most of them were originally stocked with food supplies for 20,000 meals.
“But in a disaster like this you can go through 20,000 meals in [one] day [and] easily in two days,” he said.
Most of the other units on site are chainsaw and recovery teams as well as mobile shower units.
Following is the latest information about where Southern Baptist disaster relief units have been activated:
— The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has activated a mobile kitchen unit, generator, shower unit and chainsaw/recovery team for service at Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.
— The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit and two chainsaw/recovery teams for service at Myrtle Grove Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.; and a mobile kitchen unit, two chainsaw/recovery teams, and a shower unit for service at First Baptist Church, Andalusia, Ala.
— The Missouri Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit, two recovery/chainsaw teams and a shower unit for service at First Baptist Church, DeFuniak Springs in DeFuniak, Fla.
— The Louisiana Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit and two chainsaw recovery teams for service at Little Escambia Baptist Church in Flomaton, Ala., and a mobile kitchen unit for service in-state at the Bell Chase Auditorium near the St. Lucie Parish in Louisiana.
— The Tarrant County Texas Baptist Association has activated a mobile kitchen unit for service at Moffett Road Baptist Church in Mobile, Ala. Texas mobile kitchens have also been assigned to the Salvation Army headquarters in Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla.
— The Alabama Baptist State Convention has activated: a mobile kitchen unit for service at five Birmingham-area shelters; five chainsaw/recovery teams and a communication unit for service at Little Escambia Baptist Church in Flomaton, Ala.; and a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, chainsaw/recovery unit, and communication unit for use at First Baptist Church in Robertsdale, Ala.
— The Kentucky Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit, communication team and chainsaw/recovery team for service at First Baptist Church in Bay Minette, Ala., and a mobile kitchen unit for service at First Baptist Church in Brewton, Ala.
— The Tennessee Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, communication team and two chainsaw/recovery teams for service at Atmore Baptist Church in Atmore, Ala.; and a mobile kitchen unit and shower unit for service at Immanuel Baptist Church in Pace, Fla., northeast of Pensacola, Fla.
— The Georgia Baptist Convention has activated two mobile kitchen units, a shower unit, chainsaw/recovery team and communication unit for service at Gulf Breeze Elementary School in Gulf Breeze, Fla.
— The State Convention of Baptists in Ohio has activated a mobile kitchen unit for service in Niceville, Fla.
— The Illinois Baptist State Association has activated a mobile kitchen unit and two chainsaw/recovery units for service at the Gulf Shores Recreation Center in Gulf Shores, Ala.
— The Virginia Baptist Mission Board has activated a mobile kitchen unit and shower unit for Edgewood Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wheeling, W.Va.
— The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board has activated a team of 15 volunteers for service at the Salvation Army kitchen at Orange Beach, Ala.
— The Florida Baptist Convention continues to have mobile kitchen units and recovery teams serving in-state in the southwest, the panhandle and along the east coast — all areas hard-hit by one of three hurricanes to hit the state since mid-August — Charley, Frances or Ivan.
Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to the North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.