News Articles

Displaced workers receiving Southern Baptist relief funds

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–More than 800 hotel workers, janitorial staff, security guards and other workers who lost their jobs in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have been the beneficiaries of more than $1.4 million to date in Southern Baptist benevolence funds.

The assistance is a key component of “Enduring Hope,” the long-term plan for spending more than $3.5 million in relief funds contributed to the North American Mission Board, Metropolitan New York Baptist Association and the Baptist Convention of New York.

The direct grants make up 40 percent of the relief fund — part of a total of 60 percent for victim benevolence and counseling ministries, according to the allocation plan announced by the three entities in January. Also included in that category are funding for a resident chaplain and other ongoing disaster relief ministries.

In addition to the $3.5 million, state conventions in Florida and South Carolina have contributed $226,000 to the victim benevolence effort, and an additional $244,000 from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma is going toward both the benevolence and the chaplaincy efforts.

Overseeing the victim benevolence effort is Larry Brown, a Southern Baptist retired Exxon executive who works out of the Metropolitan New York Baptist Association offices in Manhattan.

Brown said his initial strategy was to let area churches and other constituencies know about the application process for the grants, which have averaged about $1,700. The focus on the lower-income displaced workers — who have received 90 percent of the funds — developed with the realization that they were most in need of the money. He noted that families of those who died already have received large grants of more than $1 million from other sources.

“When looking at our funds, which are relatively modest on that kind of scale, it’s pretty easy for me to conclude that the greatest immediate need is the $25,000-a-year security guard who is out of work completely and is maybe some months from being able to find work,” Brown said.

“From the documentation we see, many of them already had financial difficulty before 9-11, so the loss of a job just brought it to an extreme situation.”

The bulk of the recipients actually have come from contacts made through First Haitian Baptist Church Canarsie in Brooklyn. The congregation had two former World Trade Center workers in its membership who needed assistance, and through friends and acquaintances hundreds of other affected families were identified.

Pastor Joseph Victor said contacts have brought an average of 10 additional guests each Sunday. Each family receives follow-up contacts.

“My fear is the lack of space,” said Victor, noting the church was already outgrowing its facility. “But then I say, ‘Well, wait a minute. God is in charge.'”

He told of one woman who was two months behind in her mortgage and was able to avoid foreclosure with the help of the Southern Baptist gifts.

“She said she didn’t know what language to speak to say thank you,” Victor said.

Brown told of another recipient of funds who was personally injured in his own escape from the World Trade Center, only to lose his wife and daughter two months later in the crash of American Airlines Flight 587 in Queens.

In another case, the Baptist association’s Hispanic custodian was able to share the gospel with three displaced workers from the Dominican Republic who asked about a Spanish-language Bible during the application process.

“When the men returned a couple of days later to pick up their benevolence check … it was clear that at least one of them had been reading in Matthew,” Brown said.

In other “Enduring Hope” developments, preparations are being made to place a church-planting missionary in the immediate vicinity of the World Trade Center to provide a long-term base of support for those affected by the crisis. Federal officials have said they expect response workers and others affected by the tragedy to experience mental and emotional problems for eight to 10 years. A total of 15 percent of the “Enduring Hope” funds are budgeted to undergird the church planting efforts near ground zero.

Also, the resident chaplain funded by the effort continues to gain opportunities to provide crisis and caregiver counseling, particularly through a relationship with the Port Authority Police Department that remains responsible for security at Ground Zero. A group of Southern Baptist women distributed gift bags for the officers to give to their wives at a luncheon in February.

Since Sept. 11, Southern Baptists Disaster Relief volunteers have prepared more than 955,000 meals in New York or Washington in cooperation with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army and cleaned 643 apartments for residents near ground zero.
The complete document “Enduring Hope: Disbursing Disaster Relief Donations with Integrity and Impact” is available at www.namb.net/home/homepage/enduringhopetext.asp.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson