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Southern Baptist volunteers rush to Fla., Ala., to assist in aftermath of Hurricane Dennis

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are in various stages of deployment to the Florida panhandle and Alabama coast following the arrival of Hurricane Dennis July 10.

Volunteers from Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Oklahoma are mobilizing to supply needed relief to victims of the fifth major hurricane to strike Florida in 11 months.

Southern Baptist response will be smaller than originally thought as Dennis was much less intense than Hurricane Ivan, which devastated coastal communities last September. In addition to widespread power outages, Dennis wrought downed trees and road closures due to flooding.

“Initially, 24 units were requested to be put on standby by the American Red Cross and Salvation Army,” said Terry Henderson, Southern Baptist national disaster relief director, from the North American Mission Board’s Disaster Operations Center near Atlanta.

Henderson said with residents of affected areas already returning to their homes, he expects fewer feeding units are necessary.

“Most work will be debris removal and possibly some mud out,” he said.

Two World Changers projects set to start this week in Florida and Mississippi were delayed a day due to Dennis. Ironically, a collegiate project scheduled for July 10-16 in Pensacola, Fla., was to focus partly on disaster recovery from hurricanes Ivan and Charley.

“Rather than ride the hurricane out in Pensacola, we put them on hold until today,” said John Bailey, manager of student volunteer mobilization at NAMB. “We are still without power, but we’ll use generators. Before Dennis, we had 15 substandard houses we were going to work on … but we won’t know what we can get to until we can make an assessment.”

More than 150 students and leaders from as far as California are expected for the project.

Another World Changers project scheduled in Hattiesburg, Miss., was delayed because of high winds and hard rain. Students and leaders were set to arrive July 11.

Following is the latest information about where Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units have been activated, according to Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at NAMB:

— The Alabama Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen for service at Flomaton, Ala.

— The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma has activated a mobile kitchen for service at Atmore, Ala.

— The Mississippi Baptist Convention Board has activated a mobile kitchen for service at Grove Hill, Ala.

— The Georgia Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen for service at Immanuel Baptist Church, Pace, Fla.

— The Florida Baptist Convention has activated a mobile kitchen for service at Olive Baptist Church, Pensacola, Fla. Volunteers will be working alongside the Salvation Army.

— The Missouri Baptist Convention is sending a shower trailer for service in Escambia County, Fla.

All units being activated are expected to have chainsaw and recovery crews to assist residents with cleanup, Burton said.

Dennis, a fast-moving Category 3 hurricane packing 120 mph winds, hit the Florida panhandle and Alabama coast about 3 p.m. EST July 10 with less force than earlier predicted. While the area was spared the widespread destruction of Ivan, it caused power outages for more than 500,000 residents in Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia. Scattered flooding was reported throughout the region. President Bush has declared 38 counties in Mississippi and 45 counties in Alabama federal disaster areas.

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/dr or mailed to the North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.
For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.

    About the Author

  • Tim Yarbrough