ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–After preparing nearly 1 million meals over the past two weeks in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, Southern Baptist mobile kitchens will be closing their disaster relief feeding operations Oct. 2 in Alabama’s Gulf Shores region while several mobile kitchens are expected to continue operation in the Florida Panhandle for another week.
Meanwhile, recovery efforts across east Florida continue to strengthen less than a week after Hurricane Jeanne -– the fourth hurricane to hit the Sunshine State in a six-week period –- slammed the state’s east coast near Stuart, Fla., on Sept. 25.
“All of the mobile kitchens serving meals in Alabama will be closing down after lunch on Saturday,” said Randy Creamer, manager of the North American Mission Board’s disaster relief operations center near Atlanta. “Some have been reassigned from the Ivan operation back to east Florida for recovery efforts from Hurricane Jeanne.
“Right now we’re in the transition from closing out the feeding and realizing there is still a lot of recovery to go on in Alabama and the Panhandle.”
More than 2,000 cleanup and recovery projects have been completed and about 4,000 job requests for tree removal and structural repairs remain in the region hardest hit by Hurricane Ivan which made landfall Sept. 16.
And in response to Hurricane Jeanne, about 600 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are currently staffing mobile kitchen units and recovery teams from 15 states. Units are stationed at Southern Baptist churches throughout east Florida in the following cities: Melbourne, Stuart, Sebastian, Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Avon Park, Barefoot Bay, Bushnell, Auburndale, Bartow and Cross City, as well as First Church of God in Vero Beach.
Southern Baptist recovery efforts also continue in Wheeling, W. Va., as well throughout western North Carolina where the remnants of Hurricane Ivan caused widespread flooding.
Creamer said mobile kitchen units, which relocated from the Gulf Coast region to east Florida in the wake of Hurricane Jeanne, began cooking meals Sept. 29. He said kitchen crews are working 18-hour days in the heat and humidity while chainsaw crews work from dawn to dusk.
“I can’t tell you how many people have said this is my third or fourth time to volunteer in the last six weeks,” Creamer said. “It’s taking its toll not only on the human side, but on the equipment side as well.”
Creamer asked Southern Baptists to continue praying fervently for the hurricane victims and disaster relief volunteers.
“The fatigue is catching up with them,” he said.
The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief community is also dealing with its own crisis, as volunteers across the country are mourning the death of one of its leaders.
Joel W. Phillips, 52, who served as NAMB’s national offsite disaster relief coordinator, died of a heart attack at his home Sept. 29. The funeral will be held at 3 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4, at First Baptist Church in Conyers, Ga.
Since mid-August, in the wake of Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, more than 7,000 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have helped prepare nearly 2 million meals and completed more than 5,600 cleanup and recovery projects.
Also since Aug. 1, Southern Baptists have given slightly more than $420,000 to NAMB to help cover the costs of the unprecedented disaster relief response.
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 the North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.