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SBDR leaders honor key volunteers

KANSAS CITY (BP) — Southern Baptist Disaster Relief leaders and volunteers gathered Jan. 23 to honor those who exhibited great selflessness and determination in the aftermath of disaster. Around 150 people attended, representing 42 state convention teams and North American Mission Board (NAMB) staff.

The event was part of SBDR leaders from across North America gathering to assess the previous year, discuss ways to enhance their effectiveness and recognize exemplary service. The majority of the 2019 annual meeting took place at Blue Valley Baptist Church in Overland Park, Kan.

“Last year, 2018, was another banner year for disaster relief across the United States,” said Sam Porter, the national director for SBDR through NAMB. “Whether it was hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or fires, Southern Baptists spent a lot of time in response mode, and our volunteers deserve all the credit in the world for the sacrifices they make to send help and the hope of the Gospel.”

Recipients were chosen after their respective state directors nominated them for the award. And the SBDR steering committee, which is made up of state disaster relief directors from across the United States, votes to determine the award winners.

The Robert E. Dixon Award is given based on a lifetime of service that helped shape the course of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The namesake of the award founded what would become SBDR in 1967 when he fed people from his vehicle after Hurricane Beulah hit the Texas Gulf Coast.

Win Williams of First Baptist Church of Brighton, Mich., received a Robert E. Dixon Award. Williams recently retired as the disaster relief director for Michigan Baptists.

Don Gann, pastor of First Baptist Church of Oxford, Miss., also received a Robert E. Dixon Award. Gann previously served as the state director of disaster relief for Mississippi Baptists before transitioning to the pastorate.

Gann was unable to attend the meeting in person, but Shane McGivney, who followed Gann as state director, accepted the award on his behalf. McGivney will present the award to Gann during a service at Gann’s church in February.

SBDR leaders also presented a second award, the Joel W. Phillips Outstanding Achievement Award. Given for a series of services and performances, three recipients were recognized during the banquet: Eddie Blackmon, disaster response coordinator for NAMB and member of First Baptist Church, Panama City, Fla.; Ernie Zabala of McKenzie Road Baptist Church in Olympia, Wash.; and Icel “Dean” Kiser of First Southern Baptist Church of Arcadia, Okla.

Six disaster relief volunteers also received Distinguished Service Awards for their exceptional service in 2018: Ed and Loretta Greene of Sagebrush Church in Rio Rancho, N.M.; Lynda Porter of First Baptist Church Provo, Utah; Cheryl Wood of North Metro Church in Thornton, Colo.; Tamara Parry of Union Hill Baptist Church in Holts Summit, Mo.; Charles Castle of First Baptist Church of Paintsville, Ky.; and Ron Earley who serves through the SBC of Virginia.

Coy Webb, state disaster relief director for Kentucky Baptists, also received an award for his service on the national SBDR steering committee.

The SBDR directors also chose to honor four support staff — Cathy Miller, Judy Cape, Beth Bootz and Cindy Henderson — who provide vital administrative and communications services for SBDR through Send Relief, NAMB’s compassion ministry arm.

In 2018, Southern Baptists provided nearly 2.3 million meals, helped more than 7,300 homeowners and witnessed 562 professions of faith in the aftermath of disaster.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is among the three largest providers of disaster relief assistance in the United States. Southern Baptist churches, associations and state conventions all partner to mobilize volunteers, resources and equipment to provide services. The North American Mission Board provides national coordination and assistance in larger, multi-state responses.