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SBC relief work to scale back as response enters 3rd week

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief operations in New York and Washington are expected to begin scaling back somewhat beginning Sept. 28 after more than two weeks of deployment, but leaders say they continue to receive expressions of thanks from the many who have found respite and comfort through the efforts of volunteers.

A total of 265 volunteers have contributed to the effort, which has resulted in preparation of more than 215,000 hot meals for those responding to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Of those volunteers, 21 have been chaplains active in New York in and around the affected area, including the morgue at “ground zero.”

The North Carolina mobile kitchen based in the south parking lot of the Pentagon will close the evening of Sept. 28 as the number of workers at the site has begun to decline. In New York, efforts are underway to reduce the number of units deployed and consolidate remaining efforts at Floyd Bennett Airport in Brooklyn.

“We’re looking at possibly waning down on the feeding and looking at a long-term response,” said Mickey Caison, national director for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief and a staff member of the North American Mission Board.

The large majority of the meals prepared by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, particularly in New York, are delivered by the American Red Cross to respite centers near major work sites — including the disaster site itself, law enforcement agencies and the landfill where wreckage from the site is being examined. In Washington, most of the meals have been served to workers directly at the site, although some also are delivered by Red Cross volunteers.

The role of Southern Baptist chaplains has also begun scaling down, Caison said. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has indicated he is going to use only local chaplains to assist with the ongoing response, Caison said, meaning that Southern Baptist chaplains currently on the scene will not be replaced.

“We continue to look at opportunities of church-to-church partnerships and some things we might do with pastors in the future” Caison said.

Disaster Relief leaders said they continue to receive reports of the widespread impact volunteers are making, however.

At a United Parcel Service terminal in lower Manhattan, a Tennessee Baptist Convention mobile kitchen has formed a relationship with law enforcement officers working long hours across the street dealing with family members of victims.

“The commander asked if they could use our site as a rest spot for his officers,” said Tim Bearden, leader of the unit.

In another case, a health department inspector — required to spend an entire shift monitoring food preparation at the site — actually pitched in with cooking to assist the effort.

“She said, ‘I can’t just stand here and watch and do nothing,’ so she jumped in and helped,” said Ed Kay, a member of First Baptist Church in Sparta, Tenn.

Donors from 39 states and Canada have given more than $285,000 for the disaster relief effort, much of which has come from donations online at www.namb.net. One hundred percent of those gifts will be used for disaster relief in the field, not for administration. Checks designated for Disaster Relief also may be sent to NAMB by mail to P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations also may be given by calling 1-888-440-6262.

The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network, which includes more than 20,000 trained volunteers, is coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board in cooperation with state Southern Baptist conventions. For more information and updates, visit www.namb.net.

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  • James Dotson