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Southern Baptists set to provide up to 50,000 meals daily in N.Y.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units will set up at three separate locations in New York within the next few days, providing up to 50,000 hot meals daily, shower facilities and counseling services for emergency workers at the site of the World Trade Center collapse.

In Washington, D.C., meanwhile, a mobile kitchen unit from North Carolina began its second day feeding emergency workers at the Pentagon after serving 2,300 meals overnight.

“I’m seeing people who are tired and exhausted, but yet I’m not seeing ‘I’m ready to go home,'” said Skip Green, disaster relief director for the North Carolina Baptist Convention.

Joel Phillips, off-site coordinator for the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response, said Sept. 13 that Southern Baptist crews will be the major supplier of American Red Cross meals for rescue and recovery workers in New York. Phillips is based at the North American Mission Board’s Volunteer Mobilization Action Center, located at the agency’s offices in Alpharetta, Ga.

A total of eight disaster relief units have been dispatched to staging areas surrounding New York, with an additional three units on standby or alert status.

The first units to set up operations, Phillips said, will be mobile kitchens from New York and Virginia, which will set up at the New York Naval Shipyard in Brooklyn with plans to be operational Sept. 14. They will be accompanied by a trailer-mounted shower unit from North Carolina and a communication unit from South Carolina.

Locations for two other sites in Manhattan were still being determined as of noon Sept. 13 in cooperation with American Red Cross officials, Phillips said. Kitchen units from Georgia and Kentucky will be accompanied by shower and communication units from North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

In all cases, the American Red Cross will deliver meals prepared by the Southern Baptist units directly to the work areas.

The response also includes counseling services provided through more than a dozen volunteer chaplains assigned thus far to work as part of the teams. Efforts are underway to help many more Southern Baptist chaplains assist through other channels as well.

“We will establish a structure for incoming chaplains to get them located in a place of real help,” said Bob Vickers, director of the North American Mission Board’s chaplaincy unit, who is in Manhattan helping coordinate logistics. He noted one promising possibility is an area in southern Manhattan relatively close to the scene where large numbers of people have been gathering, a setting which would allow chaplains to meet with individuals as necessary.

Mickey Caison, national coordinator for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, said by telephone from Manhattan that the scene was unlike any he had experienced before.

“The leadership teams that I am used to working with are very sedate, very concerned about how to accomplish the job in the environment we are in right now,” he said. “We are having to scramble to put together a plan and strategy to accomplish our mission in the absence of the resources that we normally have. It will be quite a challenge to make that happen.”

Additional ministry efforts by Southern Baptists include an attempt by the Baptist Convention of New York to locate a linguist to work with the American Red Cross in communicating with other nationalities, said J.B. Graham, executive director of the convention.

A prayer ministry team in Oklahoma also is preparing handwritten notes of encouragement for the relief workers, he said, which would be distributed through the chaplains.

“We also have had e-mails and condolences from foreign Baptist conventions such as Austria, New South Wales and Singapore, all assuring us of their prayers,” Graham added.

Both Caison and Vickers described a population that still wanders around largely in shock, with what Vickers called a “1,000-mile stare.”

“There is an aimlessness, a listlessness about how to approach everything,” Vickers said. “A lot of heads shaking in disbelief. You get the idea that they are trying to continue on with life, yet realizing a real impossibility of putting this behind them right now.”

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers, numbering more than 20,000 nationally, consistently have been the largest provider of hot meals for distribution during American Red Cross disaster relief operations. The network is coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board in cooperation with state Baptist conventions.

Donors from 15 states have already given several thousand dollars for the disaster relief response 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 at 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022.
Jim Burton contributed to this report. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: PREPARING TO SERVE.

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  • James Dotson