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250 Disaster Relief workers provide 44,000 meals in New York, Washington

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–More than 250 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers had responded as of Sept. 17 to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, preparing nearly 44,000 meals for search and rescue workers. Sixteen volunteer chaplains had also arrived in New York to provide grief counseling in various locations, including the morgue associated with the effort.

All five mobile kitchen units activated thus far are now operational, preparing meals for distribution by the American Red Cross. Four are in the New York area, while a North Carolina unit has been preparing meals on the south parking lot of the Pentagon in Washington since the morning of Sept. 12.

“We now feel like we’ve got our presence established, and patterns are in place for calling out future volunteers,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for the North American Mission Board (NAMB), which coordinates Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts nationally.

“We continue to have a good presence with the communications, feeding and shower units, and our chaplains are ministering both in the compassion center [where many of the victims’ family members are housed] and throughout the streets of New York.”

Burton reiterated that all volunteers participating in the effort must have previously completed Southern Baptist Disaster Relief training. Individuals wishing to receive training for future efforts should contact their local state conventions.

Over the weekend four mobile kitchen units from New York, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky began operations at three separate locations in New York — the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn, a city-owned warehouse in Brooklyn and at a United Parcel Service terminal located within a mile of the World Trade Center complex in Manhattan.

Curtis Fowler, who is in charge of the Manhattan Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operation, said that while most of the meals they prepare are delivered by the American Red Cross they have been able to serve many emergency workers and local residents directly at their site. Fowler is a member of West Lonsdale Baptist Church in Knoxville, Tenn.

“Some of them are really still in a state of shock,” he said, noting they had talked with one fireman from a unit that lost half of its firefighters in the collapse.

When they arrived on Saturday, Sept. 15, Fowler said he was astounded at the level of support they encountered.

“The streets were lined with people with signs thanking us and other volunteers, and saying, ‘God bless you,'” he said. “It was a stirring site. You can’t describe the feeling. … They have treated us especially nice and bent over backward to help us.”

All Disaster Relief volunteers working in the area are being briefed at a staging area at Raritan Valley Baptist Church in Edison, N.J.

A total of 10 units currently are active in New York and Washington. Additionally, teams of chaplains from Oklahoma and South Carolina are on site, with others from Alabama, Mississippi and other states on the way. A team of chaplains from Texas is on alert for possible deployment.

Southern Baptist crews are the major supplier of American Red Cross meals for search and rescue workers in New York, according to Joel Phillips, who is coordinating the overall effort nationally from NAMB’s Volunteer Mobilization Action Center in Alpharetta, Ga.

Additional ministry efforts by Southern Baptists include an attempt by the Baptist Convention of New York to locate a linguist to work with American Red Cross in communicating with other nationalities, said to J.B. Graham, executive director of the convention.

A prayer ministry team in Oklahoma also is preparing handwritten notes of encouragement for the relief workers, he said, which would be distributed through the chaplains.

“We also have had e-mails and condolences from foreign Baptist conventions such as Austria, New South Wales and Singapore, all assuring us of their prayers,” Graham said.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, numbering more than 20,000 nationally, consistently have been the largest provider of hot meals for distribution during American Red Cross disaster relief operations. The network is coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board in cooperation with state Baptist conventions.

Donors from 27 states have already given more than $12,000 for the disaster relief response online at www.namb.net. One hundred percent of those gifts will be used for disaster relief in the field, not for administration.

Checks designated for Disaster Relief also may also be sent to NAMB by mail at 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: SUPPORT FOR VOLUNTEERS and CHAPLAINS PRAY.

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  • James Dotson