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Baptists expand post-Gustav meal capacity

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–The American Red Cross and Salvation Army have asked Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers to prepare for the worst.

“But hope for the best,” said Mickey Caison, director of NAMB’s adult mobilization team.

The organizations’ requests for feeding capacity have now doubled from 310,000 meals per day to more than 600,000 as the Gulf Coast braces for the possibility of a Category 4 Gustav, which now is teetering between tropical storm and hurricane status but picking up power as it moves slowly toward the Gulf Coast.

Some 113 of 115 Southern Baptist disaster relief feeding units have been put on alert to mobilize along the Gulf Coast states within a day or two after hurricane’s landfall.

Even as Republicans gear up to gather in Minneapolis and Tropical Storm Hanna threatens to churn up the East Coast, a still-wounded Gulf Coast is well aware of what Gustav could do.

Several larger shelters are ready in Texas where four Texas Baptist Men disaster relief feeding units have deployed. Other sites will be determined as landfall nears.

Most shelter areas likely will be stationed in Texas, northern Louisiana and Jackson, Miss.

Because of revised evacuation plans post-Katrina, most shelter and feeding will take place farther away from disaster locations, though disaster recovery units still will move in to help clear roadways and, later, affected communities.

Many Gulf Coast areas will evacuate this weekend. New Orleans has planned for a mandatory evacuation and is bringing in buses for 30,000 people who lack transportation. Places as far north as Oklahoma City are preparing for as many as 2,500 evacuees.

As disaster relief coordinators work with local, state and federal agencies to determine the extent of damage and the need following the storm, most units will be assigned to the states they managed following Katrina.

Tropical Storm Hanna continues to track toward the Bahamas, putting a number of units on alert in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and Georgia in case that storm takes a northward turn. Those conventions will divide their resources between affected areas depending on severity.

“While we may not be able to utilize entire units, we can make use of volunteers from several units to help fill in and replenish as time and need require,” said Terry Henderson, NAMB’s disaster relief consultant.

The Illinois and Minnesota-Wisconsin disaster relief units are staying in place in case needs arise related to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis but will join up with coastal efforts later.

“As soon as we can get the wind down low enough to travel we’ll go in,” said Caison, adding that volunteers already are preparing food at pre-event shelters in Arkansas, Mississippi and Texas.

With 85,000 trained disaster relief volunteers and 1,500 disaster relief units, Southern Baptists are among the three largest disaster relief organizations in the nation. Each state Baptist convention funds and organizes disaster relief work in their state, with the North American Mission Board providing national coordination and communication between Southern Baptists and national disaster relief organizations and government representatives.

For the latest information about Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts related to Gustav, visit www.namb.net.
Adam Miller is associate editor of On Mission magazine at the North American Mission Board.

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  • Adam Miller