ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers began rolling into Louisiana in force over the weekend in the wake of Hurricane Lili, including three additional mobile kitchens, five chainsaw crews and seven trailer-mounted shower units.
A Texas disaster relief command center unit was set up at First Baptist Church of Abbeville, where the chainsaw units are clearing trees from yards in Abbeville and the nearby towns of Kaplan and Erath. The area is just west of New Iberia and south of LaFayette.
The five chainsaw units working thus far come from Arkansas, South Carolina, Florida and Alabama, and three teams from North Carolina are expected Oct. 8. Five additional units from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee and South Carolina are on standby status.
Serving as incident commander for the operation out of the Abbeville location is Mickey Caison, national disaster relief coordinator and manager of adult volunteer mobilization for the North American Mission Board.
“The size of the response is a little larger than what I had anticipated because there are so many streets and houses damaged,” Caison said. “Of course it’s not as bad as if it had been a Category 4 hurricane, but that doesn’t mean a lot to a person who has a 3-foot-diameter oak tree through the middle of their house.”
Mobile kitchens responding to the storm include three Louisiana units that already were working in Kenner, Houma and Slidell. Additional units from Texas, Alabama and Arkansas are being opened in Alexandria, Rayne and Abbeville, respectively. Caison said the American Red Cross is distributing most of the food in neighborhoods that are without electricity and even water in many cases.
One new aspect of the response to Lili is the expanded use of mobile shower trailers, which usually contain four to six individual showers and the associated water heaters and changing space.
“This is the first operation that we will be using the showers to serve not only our people, but the government workers and the general public,” said Joel Phillips, off-site coordinator for the operation and a NAMB volunteer mobilization associate.
The shower units include two NAMB-owned trailers based at First Baptist Church of Abbeville, a NAMB unit and a Tennessee unit at the Public Works Center in Abbeville, an Alabama unit at First Baptist Church of Rayne, a Georgia unit at Erath Middle School, and a Texas unit in Kaplan.
Also activated is a North Carolina laundry unit, a trailer containing several washers and dryers that will support disaster relief volunteers in Rayne.
In a Mississippi response under way since Tropical Storm Isidore blew through the area in late September, a Mississippi mobile kitchen based at First Baptist Church of Biloxi had reported 3,250 meals served as of Oct. 4 and planned to conclude operations by the end of the week.
More than 25,000 trained volunteers currently are a part of the Southern Baptist disaster relief network nationwide. The units generally are owned and operated by state conventions and local associations and coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board.
Financial contributions designated for the disaster relief response may be sent to the North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022 or to the Louisiana Baptist Convention and designated for disaster relief c/o LBC Men’s Ministries Department, P.O. Box 311, Alexandria, LA 71309.