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SBC relief effort prepares near-record 2.1 million meals

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Since mid-August, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have prepared more than 2.1 million meals in the wake of four hurricanes that have battered Florida and neighboring states along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard.

Typically, in disaster relief responses, Southern Baptist volunteers prepare most of the meals distributed by the American Red Cross. Southern Baptists are the third-largest disaster relief agency in the country behind the Red Cross and Salvation Army, with more than 28,000 trained volunteers on call for local, state and national emergencies.

Jim Burton, director of the North American Mission Board’s volunteer mobilization team, said he expects Southern Baptist’s national disaster relief response, which has been in continuous operation for nearly two months, to eclipse the record of 2.5 million meals prepared in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, which blasted south Florida and parts of Louisiana in August 1992.

“As of today, we have about 65 mobile disaster relief units on site, including about 1,300 volunteers, and most of those are in Florida with cleanup and recovery units still on site in Alabama,” Burton said.

Meanwhile, Southern Baptist Disaster relief feeding operations continue in the wake of Hurricane Jeanne, which slammed into Florida’s east coast, near Stuart, on Sept. 25. Southern Baptist mobile kitchen units from nearly 20 states have helped prepare more than 95,000 meals during the first week’s response.

Mickey Caison, manager of NAMB’s Disaster Operations Center near Atlanta, said he expects that most of the mobile kitchen units will shut down operations in about a week as electricity is restored across Florida. All mobile kitchens operating across Alabama in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, which made landfall Sept. 16, shut down Oct. 2.

In the wake of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief officials conservatively estimate the value of the labor provided by more than 8,000 Southern Baptist volunteers at about $5 million. To date, more than 6,300 cleanup and recovery projects have been completed by volunteers from 30 states.

Caison said long-term disaster relief efforts currently are being planned and rebuilding efforts should be underway across southwest Florida and the Panhandle before the end of the year.

“Using Southern Baptist volunteers through NAMB’s Campers on Mission, Baptist Builders, and youth mission teams, we’re hoping to get a significant start on rebuilding this winter,” Caison said.

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 North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.

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  • Lee Weeks