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Louisiana disaster relief operation focusing on clearing fallen trees

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–More than 30 Southern Baptist disaster relief units have given 700-plus days of volunteer labor to help southern Louisiana recover from back-to-back Tropical Storm Isidore and Hurricane Lili, with the bulk of the activity now focused on clearing of trees and other debris.

“We’re cutting trees, hauling brush, cutting logs, patching holes in houses, putting vinyl over them, putting tarps over them, just doing everything we can to stop the water from getting in,” said Carl Nance, a unit director from Charlotte, N.C., whose crews have been working since Oct. 7 in Abbeville.

Through Oct. 9, 37 cleanup jobs had been completed, with 14 crews currently on the scene. Those crews are from South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Alabama (two units), North Carolina (five units), Arkansas and Tennessee (three units).

The cleanup operation is based at First Baptist Church of Abbeville, La., with crews working in a number of surrounding towns. The church also is the site of the mobile command center for the operation supplied by Texas Baptists.

The morning of Oct. 11 Nance said he had a large crew working on a home of an elderly woman who had seven trees down. The priority, he said, is to clear trees from houses and driveways so power can be restored.

Nance — a member of Derita Baptist Church in Charlotte — said he has been volunteering with Southern Baptist disaster relief since 1973, and when he retired in 1986 he committed to serving wherever God wanted him.

“I love it,” he said. “I do a little carpentry work around home, but I have to go when the Lord calls me to do this kind of work.”

Seven mobile kitchens in Louisiana had prepared 92,281 meals as of late Oct. 9. Counting a response in Mississippi that closed earlier in the week, the meal count for the entire operation stands at nearly 150,000.

Joel Phillips, off-site coordinator for the response based in Alpharetta, Ga., said he anticipates at least several more weeks of response.

“I suspect by the end of next week we will have shut down a couple more kitchens, and the cleanup will probably be at this or higher,” he said. “And once the water gets out — because we’re still waiting for the water — we’ll probably be looking at mud-out.”

In mud-out operations, crews go into homes where floodwater has receded and clear ruined carpet, sheetrock and other debris and sanitize.

Most of the flooding was prompted initially by Tropical Storm Isidore in the New Orleans area, where three Louisiana mobile kitchens currently are still providing meals for distribution by the Red Cross in Kenner, Houma and Slidell.

Other mobile kitchens include a Tyler, Texas, unit based in Alexandria; an Arkansas unit is in Abbeville and a Texas feeding team is based at First Baptist Church of Abbeville. An Alabama mobile kitchen working in Rayne was to close Oct. 11, while a team of Mississippi volunteers was arriving the same day to assist the Arkansas unit in Abbeville.

The food is distributed by the Red Cross primarily in neighborhoods lacking electrical power, and sometimes water.

In other ongoing disaster relief operations, Georgia mud-out crews are currently working in downtown Atlanta, where a combined storm and sanitary sewer was overwhelmed by the remnants of Tropical Storm Hanna in September. Twenty homes have currently been cleared, with about 20 jobs left to complete, reported Jim Richardson, Georgia Baptist disaster relief director. Georgia and Alabama volunteers recently completed 107 similar jobs in Donaldsonville, Ga., where Hanna also caused flooding.

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. Contributions to the Louisiana Baptist Convention and designated for disaster relief also may be sent to the LBC Men’s Ministries Department, P.O. Box 311, Alexandria, LA 71309.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson