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IMB staff offered week of paid leave to help Katrina victims


RICHMOND (BP)–International Mission Board employee Joye Russell was eager to reach out to victims of Hurricane Katrina –- and as a disaster relief volunteer with training from the North American Mission Board and Red Cross, she had the skills to help.

But after taking weeks off work to care for a sick family member several years ago, she lacked the leave time she needed to aid hurricane victims.

Then IMB President Jerry Rankin announced a plan by senior leaders to help staff members offer a quick, hands-on response to the disaster: Employees are allowed five days of paid administrative leave to help in Hurricane Katrina disaster relief.

“Without affecting any other [paid time off] or administrative leave, you can have a full week to be involved in this disaster relief,” Rankin recently told staff. As his voice broke with emotion, he added: “We want to do our part.”

Employees may serve with whatever organization they choose –- Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, the Red Cross or other teams. Russell plans to use her week of leave, along with a few saved days off, to work with the Red Cross helping hurricane evacuees at Fort Pickett near Blackstone, Va. If no evacuees are sent to Fort Pickett, Russell has asked to be assigned to Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or another state that has accepted evacuees.

“I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to put my training to use to help those who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina,” said Russell, who works with potential missionary candidates. “The five administrative leave days will allow me to participate.”

When IMB leadership gathered for the first time after the destruction’s magnitude became apparent, they asked each other what the organization could do to help, said Clyde Meador, IMB executive vice president. Giving staff members time off to participate in relief efforts immediately came to mind.

“Without this allowance, staff who wished to go to be personally involved in on-site relief efforts would have to take personal vacation time,” Meador said. “This way, with a week of paid time off, the IMB participates in their relief efforts.”

This is just the first step the board is taking as it looks for other ways to participate in relief, Meador added.

“I expect that a number of staff members will take advantage of this provision and will make a significant contribution to the physical and spiritual needs of persons affected by Katrina,” Meador said.

Staff members will be eligible for the five days of paid leave as long as Katrina relief efforts continue.

“There’s no [time limit] because we don’t know how long these opportunities will last,” said Rhonda Sadler, IMB human resources director.
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To learn more from the North American Mission Board about how you can be involved in relief efforts, go to http://namb.net or call 1-800-462-8657, ext. 6133. Southern Baptists who have not been trained as disaster relief volunteers should contact their state conventions about training opportunities.

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  • Manda Gibson