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Food units, chainsaw crews move in to help with recovery

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (BP)–In the wake of Hurricane Dennis, Alabama Baptists have mobilized quickly with food, chainsaws, volunteers and other resources sent to storm-affected areas — particularly in Escambia County, Ala.

“We have reports of numerous trees down on people’s homes and property,” said Tommy Puckett, disaster relief coordinator for the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions in Montgomery. “Certainly the devastation isn’t nearly as widespread as last September with Hurricane Ivan, but the need is still definite.”

Volunteers from Baptist associations across Alabama will converge on Escambia County to help with cleanup and recovery, Puckett said.

Atmore-based teams will include volunteers from the St. Clair Baptist Association and the Calhoun Baptist Association. Volunteers based in Flomaton and Brewton will include teams from the Elmore Baptist Association, Etowah Baptist Association, Sand Mountain Baptist Association and Tennessee River Baptist Association.

In addition to those homes affected by fallen trees, Puckett noted, many more Escambia County residents still await the restoration of electrical power to their homes.

“Since many people are without any ability to heat and cook meals, we have dispatched a feeding unit and trained teams to provide food,” Puckett said.

Among the resources deployed is the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Unit, a 45-foot tractor-trailer designed as a mobile kitchen and feeding station.

Puckett said the unit will be set up at Little Escambia Baptist Church in Flomaton and will begin providing meals July 12.

Also in transit are two Southern Baptist-related feeding units from outside Alabama, Puckett said, including:

— a unit from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma with volunteers who will set up operations at First Baptist Church in Atmore and will begin work July 12.

— a unit from the Mississippi Baptist Convention with volunteers who will set up operations at the Grove Hill National Guard Armory in Clarke County and begin work July 13.

“I should note that, even though the meals will be prepared at the churches and the armory, the food will actually be delivered by emergency response vehicles from the American Red Cross,” Puckett said.

Puckett said the response vehicles will patrol slowly through the neighborhoods and roads of Escambia and Clarke counties, looking for people needing hot food while electrical power is still off in many homes.

Also stationed at the Atmore church site will be a Missouri Baptist shower trailer, providing showering facilities for disaster relief volunteers.

“We’re grateful for these ministry partners from other parts of the Southern Baptist Convention,” said Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions. “Disaster relief funds contributed through state convention offices, both here and elsewhere, have enabled this kind of quick, collegial response.”

By 5 p.m. July 11, Alabama Baptist officials had received only one report of serious damage to a church facility, but Puckett declined to release further information until more details could be obtained.

Puckett said reports from Baptist leaders in other Alabama counties had been mostly positive.

“At this point, we’ve received ‘green lights,’ meaning no disaster relief needed, from most other Baptist associations in south and west Alabama and anticipate hearing from the others shortly,” he said.

Still Puckett cautioned against too much optimism, noting Alabama’s many rivers and streams continue to absorb the massive rainfall and continuing drainage from affected areas.

“There’s still a real possibility we’ll receive additional reports of flooding or damage to structures in Escambia County and elsewhere,” Puckett said. “We’re thankful for these many volunteers who have undergone specialized disaster relief training and are now putting it to use in service to God and to fellow human beings.”

Lance said any funds contributed to Baptist disaster relief efforts will directly benefit the victims of Hurricane Dennis.

“We don’t pay any of the volunteers who minister during this time,” Lance said. “However, disaster relief contributions do allow us to reimburse them for their round-trip mileage. These funds also help us provide food preparation, communications, repair of damaged churches and general cleanup and recovery of residential properties.”

Anyone wishing to contribute to Baptist relief efforts may do so by making checks payable to the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, 2001 E. South Blvd., Montgomery, AL 36116. Contributions should be marked “for disaster relief.”

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  • Keith Hinson