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Disaster relief unit serves hungry inmates

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–For most people, the prospect of going to jail would be terrifying. On Oct. 31, a bunch of Oklahoma Southern Baptists volunteered to do just that.

While the secular world was celebrating Halloween, a crew of about 20 disaster relief volunteers was setting up a temporary kitchen in a secure parking lot at the Oklahoma County Detention Center in downtown Oklahoma City to treat inmates to hot meals — something they hadn’t enjoyed since Oct. 27 when a drain collapsed in the jail’s kitchen.

Ready as usual to respond to any emergency, the feeding unit sprang into action when contacted by the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office for help. It was an encore performance of sorts — BGCO disaster relief volunteers did the same thing three years earlier when the jail’s kitchen underwent renovations.

“I talked to Steve [team leader Steve Boone] on Saturday and they were here the next day setting up and ready to go,” said Capt. Scott Sedbrook. “They are doing a great job; they’re a well-oiled machine.”

Boone, who attends Oakdale Baptist Church in Edmond, said Nov. 2 the work was “going extremely well. The county has been great to work with. They contract the food to Arrow Mark and they have been great to work with, too. It’s all been good.”

The Baptist feeding crew from the Capital Baptist Association prepares the hot meals and puts the items into Cambros — sanitary food storage units — which are then taken into the dining room.

“It’s my understanding that they serve the meals up into clam shells and then send them up to the different floors of the jail,” Boone said.

The 13-story, 268,000-square-foot jail normally houses about 2,000 inmates, thus requiring some 4,000 hot meals each day for lunch and dinner.

Inmates undoubtedly welcomed the change in their menu fare.

“They had eaten bologna sandwiches for three days in a row before we got here,” Boone said.

Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel said the Baptist volunteer kitchen saved the county from renting a mobile kitchen, which would have cost around $23,000.

Boone said the work would continue for about a week to 10 days, with a relief crew scheduled to take over from his crew on Nov. 5.

“We’ll stay as long as we are needed, of course,” said Sam Porter, disaster relief director for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.
Bob Nigh is managing editor of the Baptist Messenger, newsjournal of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.

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