ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — Twelve Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding units from seven state conventions had already cooked nearly 94,000 meals for Hurricane Irene survivors and first-responders as of Sept. 1.
The SBDR feeding operation spans 11 states ravaged by heavy rains and flooding from Irene’s march up the East Coast.
But the work is only beginning.
Irene claimed more than 40 lives; as of Sept. 2, more than a half-million people remained without power up and down the eastern seaboard. Damages from Irene have been estimated at $10 billion.
As more SBDR assessment teams are able to get into inaccessible or isolated areas, the long-term challenge of Hurricane Irene’s devastation is coming into focus. In much of Vermont and in north New Jersey around Paterson, entire towns and villages are surrounded by floodwater.
Mike Flannery, state disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of New York — which also serves northern New Jersey — said it may take a week or more to get into the Paterson area. Across New Jersey, more than 15 rivers continue to flood.
Mickey Caison, disaster relief team leader with the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga., reported, “It will take time to get in some of these places because in these locations, the river level is just now cresting or receding.”
But in areas where Southern Baptists can get in, Caison said feeding units from Baptist state conventions are either up and running or on the road en route.
In North Carolina — where Irene hit last Saturday — feeding by Florida Baptists is underway at Second Baptist Church and Riverview Baptist Church in Washington, N.C. Meanwhile, Mississippi Baptist volunteers are feeding in Ahoski, N.C.
Feeding also is underway by New York and Mississippi Baptists at Grace Baptist Church in Washingtonville, N.Y., where the American Red Cross has requested 20,000 meals a day over the next week. To support the New York and Mississippi crews, a Kentucky Baptist feeding unit became the 13th state convention feeding crew to be activated. That feeding team, accompanied by two shower units, began the 15-hour trip to the Albany-Schenectady area of upstate New York on Sept. 1.
Bruce James, disaster relief director for the New England Baptist Convention, called the SBDR response in New England “fluid.”
“Vermont seems to have the greatest needs at present,” James said. “There is no local support in the area and many small towns have been affected.”
Incident command centers to coordinate the DR response in Vermont have been established at Capstone Baptist Church in Bennington, Vt., and at Resurrection Baptist Church in Vermont’s capital city of Montpelier, James reported. Assessors from South Carolina are in Vermont to survey the flood damage and develop a response plan.
The Southern Baptists Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV) feeding units are preparing 7,000 meals a day on the campus of Liberty Baptist Church in Hampton, Va., while Virginia Baptist Mission Board (VBMB) units are feeding at the Virginia Baptist Resource Center in Richmond and at St. Stephens Church in St. Stephens, Va.
In southern Maryland, the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware is coordinating a chainsaw operation based at Leonardtown Baptist Church in Leonardtown, Md. Three Tennessee chainsaw units are deployed there, along with a Kentucky shower unit.
In addressing SBDR’s response to Irene, Kevin Ezell, president of NAMB, said, “We’re anticipating that Southern Baptist volunteers will be in demand for weeks to come. This is the kind of work that Southern Baptists are well-equipped to perform. As always, our disaster relief chaplains and volunteers will bring the hope of the Gospel.
“I’m grateful to our state convention partners who do such an amazing job in times like this,” Ezell said. “In times of need, we bring a hope that transcends our circumstances. Southern Baptists have always responded generously when fellow citizens face a crisis.”
Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to disaster relief operations can contact their respective state conventions or, for NAMB’s disaster relief fund, go to www.namb.net/disaster-relief-donations and hit the “donate” button. Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations can also be sent via texting “NAMBDR” to the number “40579.” A one-time donation of $10 will be added to the caller’s mobile phone bill or deducted from any prepaid balance.
Mickey Noah writes for the North American Mission Board.