ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Thirty-four Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from six state conventions are on the scene or en route to assist victims of historic flooding in Georgia, which resulted in 10 deaths and damages estimated as high as $500 million across the northern half of the state.
An estimated 20,000 homes were damaged, with 14 counties declared disaster areas by President Obama. Seventeen counties were declared as disaster areas by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.
To assist Georgia’s thousands of flood victims, a toll-free number, 1-800-460-6881, has been established by the North American Mission Board and the Georgia Baptist Convention to field calls from homeowners needing help to clean up their flooded, mud-filled homes.
The call center, staffed by volunteers, is now open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week and will relay requests to Baptist disaster relief teams in the field.
One flood victim, Rebecca Cash, sat in her carport as Georgia Baptist disaster relief volunteers hauled out water-soaked Sheetrock and insulation from her home, which filled with muddy water as floodwaters rose quickly on Monday, Sept. 21.
“I’ve lived here 36 years and I’ve never seen water come this far up the hill,” Cash said. “It’s just devastating. It might not be a fancy $300,000 home but it’s everything to me.”
Forgoing church attendance, Sunday dinner at home and NFL football, a 10-person crew of Georgia Baptist volunteers worked all day on Cash’s home, cleaning out mud and ripping out ruined drywall and paneling. The home was stripped down to its studs with the hope of saving it from mold and mildew so Cash can rebuild.
“We just want to help her get back in her home,” said mud-out volunteer Kenneth Bryant of Palmetto, Ga., a disaster relief volunteer since 2001.
NAMB’s disaster operations center — which coordinates disaster response among the 43 Southern Baptist state conventions during major disasters too big for one state to handle within its borders — went into full operation on Saturday, Sept. 26, at the mission board’s Alpharetta location.
“Assessing just started Sunday (Sept. 27),” said Mickey Caison, NAMB’s team leader for adult volunteer mobilization, reporting that 140 homes have already been identified for projects. “[W]e know we’ll have to activate many more units for assessment and recovery,” Caison said.
In support of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s recovery efforts, feeding and chaplain teams were first to respond. Disaster assessment teams from Alabama and Virginia (VBMB) are en route to Georgia, along with additional recovery teams from Texas Baptist Men, Kentucky, Virginia (SBCV) and Alabama.
The 34 Baptist disaster relief teams are now operating at nine Georgia sites: First Baptist Church Chattahoochee, Atlanta; West Metro Baptist Association, Lithia Springs; Beulah Baptist Church, Douglasville; First Baptist Church, Powder Springs; First Baptist Church, Austell; Glen Forest Baptist Church, Mableton; First Baptist Church, Summerville; First Baptist Church, Trion; and Ebenezer Baptist Church, Toccoa.
As of Monday (Sept. 28), the Georgia feeding unit at First Baptist Summerville had prepared nearly 1,000 meals for flood victims and volunteer workers.
The 100-year flood, caused by an estimated 9-12 inches of monsoon-type rainfall, ironically follows a two-year drought in the Peach State.
Mickey Noah is a writer for the North American Mission Board. With reporting by Carol Pipes. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is a ministry of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and 43 state conventions. With 90,000 trained volunteers, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operates more than 2,010 mobile units (feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry and water purification) owned and staffed by SBC churches, state conventions and local Baptist associations. In 2008, SBC Disaster Relief volunteers responded to 227 natural and manmade disasters (floods, fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, etc.), prepared 8 million meals and repaired or removed debris from more than 12,000 yards — at no charge to homeowners. Southern Baptist Disaster Relief partners with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, FEMA, state and county emergency operations centers, Mercy Medical Airlift, Samaritan’s Purse and National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters.