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New York Times profiles disaster relief volunteers

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts in New York have captured the attention of the New York Times, which ran a lengthy article Dec. 4 on the ongoing apartment cleanup project.

The article — titled “Doing Good Deeds, and Windows — leads with comments from volunteer John Gore, one of about 1,000 volunteers who have helped clean out dust and other debris from apartments adjacent to the former site of the World Trade Center. Gore showed the writer pins representing Disaster Relief locations where he has worked.

“Many members of this God squad are veterans of other cleanups – hurricanes in Honduras, mudslides in Venezuela,” the article states. “This mission is a first because they are clearing glass, airline parts and acres of dust rather than tree limbs or mud. But, just as is the case at third-world disaster sites, the Baptists do not take money for their work.”

“Armed with high-performance vacuum cleaners, mops and cans of Pledge, they have cleaned 500 apartments so far, top to bottom,’ the article continues. “They do windows and just about anything else.”

Accompanying the story are photos of both the cleanup in progress, as well volunteers in prayer during one of the nightly debriefing/devotional sessions.

The article describes not only how volunteers clean apartments, but also how volunteers from the South are quickly adapting to life in the city – and how their positive reputation has grown among the residents.

The identification in at least one case has reflected on the many volunteers who are actually from other regions.

“Indeed, when one downtown resident was told that a crew from New England was arriving to clean his apartment he balked,” according to Bob Helms, who heads the volunteer effort. “I don’t want Yankees,” Helms quoted him as saying. “I want those Southern Baptists.”

One resident, according to the article, was quoted $1,800 for a commercial cleaning service to do the work the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers did for free.

The article also examined how volunteers seemed to take in stride the austere accommodations in a former Navy jail in Brooklyn.

“We’re used to third-world countries,” Ms. [Wanda] Smith [of Nashville] said gamely. “So we’re used to these kinds of accommodations.”

The full text of the article is available online at www.nytimes.com/2001/12/04/nyregion/04BAPT.html.

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