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Disaster Relief establishes work sites, teams in Vermont

Vikki Neugebauer and Fred Palmer, with North Carolina Baptists on Mission, gather meals for delivery that have been prepared by the Red Cross in Barre, Vt. Photo courtesy Baptists on Mission

BARRE, Vt. (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams from three states are joining those in New England to assist cleanup after flooding that damaged homes and at times isolated entire towns.

Two coordination sites have been established. New England Baptists are leading efforts in Barre alongside Disaster Relief volunteers from Kentucky and South Carolina. Forty-five miles southwest in Rutland, Baptists on Mission from North Carolina have established another work site devoted to recovery efforts in Rutland, Windsor and Bennington counties.

North Carolina state director Tom Beam is taking the lead in the Vermont DR response with one of his state leaders, Mark Hinson, coordinating the work in Rutland.

West Virginia DR state coordinator Roy Polmanteer will be directing efforts in Barre on behalf of New England Baptists, which consists of volunteers from Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine.

“There is a lot of damage in Windsor County,” Beam said. “A lot of our work will be there [and include] different levels of damage in homes, some with a few inches and others with a few feet [of water].”

Disaster Relief teams will be there as long as they’re needed, he added, and certainly long after television cameras have left.

Approximately 45 volunteers are expected in Rutland by the weekend. About 100 will be joining the work in Barre. So far, more than 4,000 meals have been served to displaced families, according to a tweet by Send Relief.

Polmanteer said feeding teams as well as units for flood recovery, shower/laundry, chaplains and assessors will be busy in the coming weeks.

So far 24 homes have been identified to clean out, with more expected. Some have damage extending six feet from the floor, he said.

The types of work that flood cleanup requires can be seen in the requests he’s received, said Hinson, N.C. Baptists on Mission State Recovery coordinator. Those include crawlspace insulation removal, mold treatment, floor removal, pressure washing, removing interior contents and even completely tearing out homes.   

“We currently have 28 jobs entered with more coming in daily,” he told Baptist Press.

Prepared with the Gospel

Topography played a role in the damage, as shown in a satellite picture of the flooding in downtown Montpelier.

Polmanteer observed the same in Barre, seven miles away.

“It sits in a bowl,” he said. Nine different mudslides crossing local roads, Polmanteer added, made it necessary for the police and fire departments to temporarily conduct operations from the city auditorium, sharing space with the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The city remains under a Boil Water Notice.

Meeting physical needs is important. But in a state that routinely reports as among the least religious in the country, it’s more crucial to be an effective witness for the Gospel.

“Our primary goal is to be the hands and feet of Jesus, to share the love with survivors that He has shared with us,” Polmanteer said.

All volunteers are encouraged to share their faith. Chaplains are also on hand.

One morning, Polmanteer was walking into the auditorium hall and passed a man walking out. When Polmanteer said good morning and asked how he was doing, the man gave a direct answer: “Bad.”

They began talking. In addition to losing his home, the man found out his son in Arizona had died the night before.

“I asked him if it was OK for one of our chaplains to come over and talk to him,” Polmanteer said. “He said yes and the chaplain was able to counsel him and pray with him.

“That was God providing the right person in the right place at the needed time.”