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Those hit by Tenn. tornado now helping hurricane victims

NEW BERN, N.C. (BP)–Kirby Powell is volunteering to help Hurricane Isabel victims in Eastern North Carolina.

Powell is on his second assignment with Hardeman County’s Crisis Team, part of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief Team from Tennessee. But several months ago, Powell was surveying damage to his own home, in Jackson, Tenn., after a tornado swept through the city.

“We were lucky back in July when the tornadoes hit, all we had were holes in our roof, and a few shingles blown off here and there,” said the jovial retiree from Jackson, as he carried a cooler filled with green beans and piping-hot pot roast to waiting Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles.

Just two weeks ago, Powell finished repairs to his own home. He spent much of his time helping others affected by the tornado.

“We worked 18 hours a day almost for 13 straight days, in Jackson” he said. “We cooked almost 4,000 meals a day.”

Their mission for Hurricane Isabel is similar.

The team arrived at First Baptist Church in New Bern Sept. 28 to work a mass-feeding mission for victims of Hurricane Isabel who still had no power, no place to live, and certainly no way to get a hot meal.

“I love helping people,” he said. “I have been given a lot and I feel blessed to be able to give something back.”

For the better part of two weeks, the team has been working with the Red Cross and Salvation Army, cooking the food the volunteer agencies deliver to the victims.

They sleep on air mattresses in Sunday School rooms at First Baptist.
“The best part about sleeping in the Sunday school class is that you don’t have to make up your bed!” said cook Faye Tomlinson who is from Bolivar, Tenn.

Tomlinson and her husband Billy have been answering the call for help with the Baptist group for decades.

“We see a lot of destruction out here, and when we go home, we shed some tears, but we are also encouraged at the strength we see in the ones who lost everything,” said Tomlinson, enjoying a rare 10-minute break between meals on a University of Tennessee orange outdoor armchair emblazoned with a giant T. “It makes you appreciate what you have even more. Serving others is something we were called to do.”

That service, faceless as it is, makes a huge difference in those who are working to rebuild their lives. The hours are long, the work is hard, but for this team, serving, whether food or people, is a labor of love.
Jason Pack works for the North Carolina Disaster Field Office of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: NEEDED RELIEF.

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  • Jason Pack