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Mud-out help is key N.Y./N.J. need

EAST SYRACUSE, N.Y. (BP) — The Baptist Convention of New York is awaiting response to its national call-out for at least six mud-out units to help New York and North Jersey victims of Hurricane Irene, reported Mike Flannery, BCNY disaster relief director.

As weather forecasters predict rain from Tropical Storm Lee moving northeast, relief officials are on heightened alert.

“As Lee pushes north into our area, there is a serious concern about additional flooding in the area,” Red Cross spokesperson James Williams said. “We’re having to reposition our supplies.”

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding units are onsite, in Washingtonville and Schenectady, N.Y., staffed by local volunteers and relief teams from the Pearl River Baptist Association in Mississippi and the Kentucky Baptist Convention. Flannery said he hopes to station two mud-out units each in Washingtonville, Schenectady and northern New Jersey to help storm victims as the Baptist convention continues to assess needs.

“We don’t have any on the ground,” Flannery said of the much-needed mud-out units. He issued a national call-out through the North American Mission Board and has been in contact with various Baptist associations.

“It could be a growing need and not a decreasing need in some places in New York,” Flannery said of the service which Southern Baptists provide without charge. “The need is growing as people are realizing they have to get this stuff sanitized and cleaned out.”

In New Jersey, 43,000 homes were damaged by the storm, Williams said. Of those, 362 were destroyed while 13,000 sustained major damage, according to Red Cross assessments. Williams said six of the 64 shelters the Red Cross had opened in the state in response to Irene were still open Monday night, Sept. 5.

“The recovery process is still certainly ongoing. It’s still going to take a long time,” Williams said.

In New York, 4,500 homes are damaged, including 615 destroyed and 2,300 with major damage, said Sam Kille, public affairs chief for Hurricane Irene relief for the American Red Cross in New York. Hard-hit areas include communities just south of Albany and the counties of Schoharie, Greene, Orange, Urster and Westchester, Kille said.

In the adjacent Baptist Convention of Pennsylvania/South Jersey, two recovery teams are busy cleaning out homes in Noxen Township, Pa., where some 35 homes flooded, reported Karlene Campbell, BCPSJ disaster relief director. Campbell said she may be able to send recovery teams to BCNY within the next two weeks, noting, “We still have about 24 homes to do.”

The most recent convention to respond to Irene victims is the Kentucky Baptist Convention, which Saturday set up a feeding unit in the Schenectady area, at Trinity Baptist Church in Niskayana, and began serving 5,000 meals a day, said Karen Smith, KBC disaster relief director. The KBC also has shower units in Niskayana and in Maryland, Smith said.

Smith is using the response to train and recertify disaster relief members in New York, many of whom are helping the 33-member Kentucky team, which has prepared as many as 7,000 daily meals since Sunday.

But the need changes daily, Smith said. “Many of the bridges and roads are still washed out,” she said, making it difficult for the Red Cross to transport hot meals to those in need. Only prepackaged meals are taken by boat when roads are closed, Smith said.

Some of the Kentucky team members have had the opportunity to leave the feeding site and join the Red Cross in delivering meals.

“We see the change from the time we come when people are so hopeless,” Smith said. “As the days go on, we began to see hope back in their eyes.”

Her message to those she serves is “God is in control at all times, and even in the midst of trouble, if we look to Him for comfort, God will comfort us.”
Diana Chandler is a freelance writer in New Orleans.