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Baptist relief not interested in gov. funds, Reccord says

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief response is not contingent on government reimbursement, according Robert E. (Bob) Reccord, president of the entity that coordinates the SBC’s national disaster response.

In a front-page story in The Washington Post Sept. 27, Reccord said, “Volunteer labor is just that: volunteer. We would never ask for the government to pay for it.”

Reccord’s comments were included in a story concerning the announcement by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that it will reimburse churches and other religious organizations that have provided shelter, food and supplies to survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The article quotes Joe Becker, senior vice president of the American Red Cross, as saying, “I believe it’s appropriate for the federal government to assist the faith community because of the scale and scope of the effort.”

However, liberal civil liberty groups were quick to condemn FEMA’s action as violating the so-called separation of church and state. Reccord told another national news media outlet that he appreciated the government providing a level playing field for relief.

“No faith organization should be penalized in a reverse discrimination situation for stepping in and helping what the government needs to have done,” Reccord told Brian Kilmeade, host of the Fox News Channel’s early morning news program, “Fox and Friends.”

“It’s an amazing theoretical discussion, but during a tragedy and catastrophe, nobody cares. Victims just want help,” Reccord said.

“What we hear over and over again is ‘thank you for being the first on the scene; we don’t know what we would have done without [Southern Baptists],” Reccord said.

Reccord said Southern Baptists’ response might often be more efficient than government response because, for Baptists, “it’s more of a lifestyle and calling than a job.”

Reccord put the value of Southern Baptists’ disaster relief labor at about $9 million. When asked if he expected reimbursement for the labor, he said, “No, that’s not our focus. Our focus is volunteering. The only reimbursement we get is from the Red Cross for the food we serve.”

During the national appearance on Fox, Reccord, wearing a bright yellow shirt like all Southern Baptist relief workers wear when they are ministering in the field, reviewed the scope of the Southern Baptist Convention’s network of 30,000 trained volunteers and more than 600 mobile units.

“We have more than 6,000 people from 38 states on the ground right now. We’ve fed more than 5 million hot meals, cleaned almost 6,500 major debris sites and provided 33,000 showers to victims and relief workers, so I think we’ve been very effective,” Reccord said.

Fox co-host and New York Giants football player Tiki Barber asked Reccord how viewers can help. “Go to www.NAMB.net or call 888-571-5895,” was his quick reply. He emphasized that “100 percent of every dollar goes right to the need. We don’t keep anything out for administrative costs.”

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  • Martin King