ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–As electricity is restored in areas affected by Hurricane Isabel, the demand for meals prepared by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief mobile kitchens has diminished rapidly. A backlog of requests to clear fallen trees from yards, however, has kept the need for chainsaw crews high.
“We’re getting a lot done, but we’re getting a whole lot more requests,” said Billy Tarleton, who coordinates the cleanup and recovery units for the North Carolina Baptist Convention. “We’ve still got 798 jobs left to do out of 1,467 requests so far. A lot of (the volunteer teams) are making two trips.”
Joel Phillips, national offsite coordinator for what has become the largest-ever response of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, said the mobile kitchens have closed everywhere except for five units at four locations in Virginia — Virginia Beach, Newport News, Williamsburg and Smithfield. That is down from a high of 25 units the week after the Sept. 18 storm.
Phillips agreed that the need for recovery units remains strong, with a total of 30 units currently active in Virginia and North Carolina. While more than 1,200 jobs have been completed, more than 1,800 remain.
“We’re still trying to get units in there to continue with the recovery effort,” said Phillips, who serves on the volunteer mobilization staff of the North American Mission Board (NAMB). “That’s the big issue right now.”
As an example of the scale of the effort, one unit in the Virginia Beach area had two jobs that likely would take two full days to complete, said Randy Creamer, a NAMB employee helping coordinate Virginia recovery efforts.
“One man said it would take him three weeks to do what it would take a team of our guys maybe six hours or so,” he said.
More than 157 volunteer teams from 24 states had participated in the response as of Oct. 6 — the largest in terms of units responding in the 37-year history of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. They have prepared almost one million meals, most for distribution by the American Red Cross or Salvation Army. Volunteers have contributed more than 10,000 days of labor to the effort to date.
Mobile kitchen operations after Hurricane Andrew and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks prepared more meals and involved more volunteers, but over a much longer period of time, according to Mickey Caison, manager of adult volunteer mobilization for NAMB. Volunteers prepared 1.25 million meals in New York and Washington over a nine-month period.
About 28,000 trained volunteers currently are part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network nationwide. The units generally are owned and operated by state conventions, local associations and churches, and are coordinated nationally by NAMB.
Contributions to offset direct costs of the response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, Ga., 30022.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr. A downloadable video and photos depicting the response are available through links at www.namb.net.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: TEAMWORK and NIGHT COOKING.