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Baptists pitching in to help Virginians hit by hurricane

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Baptists from 11 states have joined Baptists from Virginia in a statewide effort to help victims of Hurricane Isabel.

Fifty Baptist disaster response units are serving in 11 different sites in Chesapeake, Gloucester, Hopewell, Kilmarnock, Newport News, Norfolk, Richmond, Virginia Beach and the Washington, D.C. area in support of the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

Those sites will expand as the Baptist volunteers assess damage and respond to requests. The 50 disaster response units include mobile kitchens for the preparation and distribution of food, chain saw gangs to clear fallen trees, teams to clean up mud and muck and teams to assess damage. The units also include water, laundry and shower units.

The Virginia Baptist Mission Board of the Baptist General Association has set up a Disaster Response Center at its offices in Richmond where hurricane victims from across the state may call for physical and/or pastoral assistance, volunteer to help others, or make contributions to the massive cleanup and feeding effort now underway.

The mission board and three other Baptist agencies housed at the Virginia Baptist Resource Center in Richmond have mobilized their combined staffs of more than 100 persons to respond to the crisis. That will include contacting all 1,450 churches in the Baptist General Association of Virginia to assess their needs and/or request their assistance. Other agencies at the resource center are the Woman’s Missionary Union of Virginia, the Virginia Baptist Foundation and The Religious Herald.

“This is the largest call out of Baptist disaster relief response in our history,” said John Upton, executive director of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board. “We have a huge task ahead of us and it seems to grow by the hour.”

In addition to Virginia and D.C., other volunteer Baptist teams have fanned out across the disaster area in North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware.

Disaster relief officials estimated that Baptists had prepared and served in excess of 108,000 meals in Virginia alone and more than 165,000 across the entire disaster area as of September 24.

“This is a life-saver,” said Bill Harrison of the Greater Richmond Chapter of the American Red Cross. “One of the major challenges we face is getting food to people.”

Throughout the region, the response from Baptists from all states has been the largest in the 37-year history of Southern Baptist Disaster relief, involving a total of 116 separate units of volunteers since Sept. 18.

Contributions to the Hurricane Isabel response may be sent to state convention offices or to the North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, Ga., 30022. Contributions can also be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief.

For regular updates on the Hurricane Isabel response, visit www.namb.net/dr.
— With additional reporting by James Dotson. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ISABEL RESPONSE.

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  • Robert O'Brien