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Record 7.3 million meals provided to Gulf hurricane victims

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–An all-time record has been reached — more than 7.3 million meals prepared to date for victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita under the Southern Baptists’ mammoth disaster relief effort across the Gulf Coast.

Previously, the most meals prepared in a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response was 2.5 million during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Southern Baptists provide the third-largest disaster relief operation in the country behind the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, with more than 30,000 trained volunteers on call for local, state and national emergencies.

But while the efforts of Southern Baptist feeding units are tapering off, the need for cleanup and recovery operations continues to grow, said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization for the North American Mission Board.

“The number of damaged homes and churches is overwhelming,” Burton said. “Volunteers will be needed for years to assist in the long-term recovery efforts.”

Louisiana Baptists have identified more than 200 churches destroyed or severely damaged by the two hurricanes; 100 have been counted in Mississippi; 100 in Texas; and 60 in Alabama. In addition to these 460 churches, many more have been impacted by the hurricanes, and damage assessment is under way.

To assist the hurricane-ravaged churches, NAMB created “Adopt A Church.” The program thus far has registered pledges from 1,583 Southern Baptist churches to provide financial and other assistance over a 12-24-month period.

Burton said 41 out of 42 state conventions are active in the disaster relief effort, with more than 7,000 volunteers still working to provide meals, showers, childcare, communications and cleanup (chain saw teams) as part of recovery and restoration operations.

At least 342 disaster relief units -– more than half the total number in the Southern Baptist disaster relief fleet of 600 -– have been activated in the wake of Katrina and Rita. Burton said 26 ministry sites and state units are operating in Louisiana; 25 in Texas; and nine in Mississippi.

A webcast briefing about Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts is available at www.namb.net. Disaster relief information is posted regularly at www.NAMB.net/dr.

Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort or to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Fund. Donations to Southern Baptist Disaster Relief may be made online at www.namb.net or by calling 1-888-571-5895. Contributions also can be mailed to the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543.
Mickey Noah is a writer with the North American Mission Board.

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