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Southern Baptists clean apartments as residents return to ‘Red Zone’

NEW YORK CITY (BP)–Six teams of volunteers armed with dust masks and special vacuum cleaners began work in homes of displaced Manhattan apartment dwellers Oct. 18 as part of the continuing Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response.

Residents only recently have been allowed to their homes in some portions of the “Red Zone” immediately surrounding the former site of the World Trade Center. Those who return to find everything in their home coated with dust are referred by disaster assistance workers to the Southern Baptist crews.

“This is the dust that came from the towers falling, and it came into the apartments,” said Bob Helms of Huntsville, Ala., who is coordinating the cleanup response. “Some apartments have two to three inches, and in others it’s a fine coating of dust.”

The first teams arrived Oct. 17, and began cleaning apartments Oct. 18, Helms said. They are based at the U.S. Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn.

The procedure calls for volunteers to wear a special suit and dust masks because the dust is so fine, although it is not considered hazardous, Helms said. The New York health department also has provided special vacuum cleaners for the work.

The six-person crews start at the ceilings and work down, thoroughly cleaning everything from the pictures on the walls to individual books and knickknacks. The process takes about a day for the average apartment.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to share what we can do to help others,” Helms said, adding that they always ask the resident if they can pray for them and their family. In one case where they piloted the procedure, he said, the tenant was so responsive to the prayer that she asked to pray for them.

Three teams from North Carolina are currently working the effort, along with one each from South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. Other teams are on standby as the demand for the service grows.

In other responses, the number of meals prepared by Southern Baptist volunteers in New York and Washington has topped 335,000.

In other continuing disaster relief work:

— A mobile kitchen at the Floyd Bennett Field airport in Brooklyn continues to prepare food for distribution by the American Red Cross. The unit, owned by a consortium of Northeastern states that includes New York, is being staffed by volunteers from Texas and Arkansas, who recently relieved teams from Illinois, Ohio and Michigan.

— Another mobile kitchen unit, from North Carolina, is based with the cleanup units at the Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn. Shower units from North Carolina also are supporting volunteers at both the airport and the shipyard.

— A team from Florida is assisting a mobile kitchen in Manhattan operated by the Salvation Army. Teams from other states will be sent to the site every five days through mid-November.

— A childcare unit from Ohio, with a crew of 12 people, has cared for more than 72 children at the American Red Cross’s Family Assistance Center in Jersey City, N.J.

Donors from 40 states and Canada have given more than $1.17 million 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 also be sent to NAMB by mail to P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Donations are accepted by phone at 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/dr.

    About the Author

  • James Dotson