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Long-term recovery targeted in post-hurricane disaster relief

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers are gradually scaling back most feeding operations throughout the Gulf States and switching into long-term cleanup, recovery and rebuilding.

Even with the scale-back, Southern Baptists now have served a record 12 million meals to hurricane victims and relief workers in the 10 weeks since Katrina raked the Gulf Coast. The previous record was 3.5 million meals served in 2004.

“The steady decline of meals served in the past few weeks is a positive sign,” said Jim Burton, director of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief center at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. “It means that communities are returning to some semblance of self-reliance.”

Feeding operations will continue indefinitely in Opa Locka, Fla., the last kitchen operating in Florida; four units are feeding in Mississippi; and six kitchens are still operating in Louisiana, mostly in the New Orleans area.

Burton said, however, that the overall disaster relief job is far from over.

“We’re now developing long-term strategies for recovery and rebuilding. The recovery phase involving chainsaw teams and ‘mud-out’ work will continue steadily into next year,” Burton said.

Southern Baptists volunteers from around the country are in the middle of the cleanup and recovery work in the affected areas of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Florida.

“During the mud-out process, our volunteers go in and remove furnishings, strip out drywall, sanitize and then rebuild,” Burton said. “We have to be especially cautious in New Orleans, where the presence of toxic materials is a factor and where we have to make sure our people are adequately clothed and protected for the work involved.”

He said the Baptist relief campaign continues to draw from a deep well of volunteers across the country, adding that most workers can go only one or two weeks but are then replaced by a fresh crew of Baptists from another state.

In one of the most horrific hurricane seasons in U.S. history, more than 9,000 Southern Baptist volunteers from 41 state conventions were deployed following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

At the same time, more than $18 million has been donated for disaster relief to the North American Mission Board, the Southern Baptist entity in Alpharetta, Ga., overseeing the Baptist relief efforts.

With the official hurricane season continuing until the end of November and the multi-year rebuilding process just starting, Southern Baptist relief efforts continue to require financial support.

Contributions for disaster relief may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort or to NAMB. Donations to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief may be made online, www.NAMB.net, or by calling 1-866-407-6262. Contributions also can be mailed to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.

Disaster relief information including downloadable videos are posted regularly at www.NAMB.net.

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  • Mickey Noah