ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–More than 400 Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from nine state Baptist conventions were serving hot meals and clearing debris Sept. 18 across the Gulf Coast regions of Alabama and Florida as recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Ivan began in earnest.
Randy Creamer, manager of the North American Mission Board’s disaster relief operations center near Atlanta, said the center also began receiving calls for assistance Saturday from West Virginia where the remnants of Ivan, downgraded to a tropical depression, had caused widespread flooding. Pennsylvania and Ohio also had reported problems with flooding.
Meanwhile, disaster relief units from North Carolina and Tennessee were responding to flooding problems of their own in western North Carolina and the Chattanooga, Tenn. area, also caused by the remnants of Ivan. Florida units continue to serve their state, which has been pummeled by three hurricanes within a month.
“Everyone is stretched,” Creamer said.
Creamer said many of the mobile kitchen units stationed at Southern Baptist churches throughout the Gulf Shores region and Pensacola, Fla., were feeding more people on site than usual because many of the American Red Cross vehicles used to transport meals into neighborhoods and communities were still en route to the feeding stations. He said meal preparations would increase significantly once the vehicles were available to transport the food into neighborhoods.
“Every mobile kitchen unit has been asked to do line feeding,” he said. “Our ministry is always the greatest when we do line feeding because of the personal contact we have with victims.”
Typically, in disaster relief responses, Southern Baptist volunteers prepare most of the meals distributed by Red Cross. Southern Baptists are the third-largest disaster relief agency in the country behind the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, with more than 28,000 trained volunteers on call for local, state and national emergencies.
As of Saturday morning, the U.S. death toll from Ivan, which made landfall with 130 mph winds, rose to 24 — eight of them in the Florida Panhandle, where the eastern edge of the storm spawned tornadoes well before the eye hit.
About 1.5 million homes and businesses did not have power Saturday in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Preliminary damage estimates from Ivan range from $2 billion to $10 billion.
Creamer said the nearly 40 units staged at the Atlanta Motor Speedway and Living Water Baptist Assembly in Covington, La., for much of the past week had been mobilized.
Following is the latest information about where Southern Baptist disaster relief units have been activated:
— The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit and chainsaw/recovery team for service at Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.
— The Arkansas Baptist State Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit and chainsaw/recovery team for service at Myrtle Grove Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla.; and a mobile kitchen unit for service at First Baptist Church, Andalusia, Ala.
— The Missouri Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit for service at First Baptist Church, DeFuniak Springs, DeFuniak, Fla.
— The Louisiana Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit and two chainsaw recovery teams for service at Little Escambia Baptist Church, Flomaton, Ala.; and a mobile kitchen unit for service in-state at the Bell Chase Auditorium near the St. Lucie Parish.
— The Tarrant County Texas Baptist Association has activated a mobile kitchen unit and shower unit for service at Moffett Road Baptist Church, Mobile, Ala.
— The Alabama Baptist State Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit for service at five Birmingham-area shelters.
— The Kentucky Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit, communication team, and chainsaw/recovery team for service at First Baptist Church, Bay Minette, Ala., and a mobile kitchen unit for service at First Baptist Church, Brewton, Ala.
— The Tennessee Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, communication team, and chainsaw/recovery team for service at Atmore Baptist Church, Atmore, Ala.; and a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, and chainsaw/recovery team for service at Immanuel Baptist Church, Pace, Fla., northeast of Pensacola, Fla.
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operations have been active in one phase or another, practically around-the-clock, since mid-August when Hurricane Charley belted southwestern Florida, followed by Hurricane Frances’ assault on the state’s eastern coast.
During that time, Southern Baptists have prepared more than 1 million meals, provided nearly 18,000 showers, and completed more than 3,600 chainsaw and cleanup projects.
Meanwhile, since Aug. 1, NAMB has received nearly $291,000 in gifts designated toward ongoing disaster relief efforts.
Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.