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W.Va. disaster relief focuses on
home repair before cold sets in

SCOTT DEPOT, W.Va. (BP)–Literally tons of food, water and chlorine bleach have been distributed in recent months to victims of the devastating July 8 floods that ravaged eight counties in southern West Virginia, affecting more than 5,000 families. Now, Leon White sees building supplies — or money to buy them — along with volunteer laborers and prayer as the most valuable resources needed immediately since cold weather will begin settling into the Appalachian Mountain area by the end of October.

White, disaster relief director for the West Virginia Baptist Convention of Southern Baptists, headquartered in Scott Depot near Charleston, said the state has seen “a tremendous response” from fellow Southern Baptists across the United States. Volunteer groups from at least 10 states — Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, South Carolina, Maryland, Alabama and Florida — have provided countless hours of both physical and spiritual assistance through seven Southern Baptist disaster relief staging areas: at Whitesville, Pineville, Brenton, Pageton, Oak Hill, Oceana and Mullens.

At least 5,342 homes — along with hundreds of businesses, schools and churches — were affected, White said. Of those homes, at least 608 were totally destroyed and another 1,940 received major damage. According to government officials, “many of those [homes] left standing are no longer habitable.”

Southern Baptists are now busy helping residents tear out and replace rotten floors and drywall, after spending nearly eight weeks helping to get the devastated areas stabilized by providing food and clothing for people who had lost nearly everything. During just one month, as White and his teams worked in cooperation with the American Red Cross, more than 1,500 volunteers prepared more than 195,751 meals. When homes were salvageable, Southern Baptists help dig out mud and disinfect.

Daily meal preparation has ceased in all Southern Baptist staging areas, but mud-out and rebuilding operations are continuing nearly around the clock.

Most of the shower trailers from the North American Mission Board and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina were deployed to New York City after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

While electricity and phone service were restored within about a week of the initial disaster in most places, many areas were just starting to get natural gas, water and sewer service at the end of August. Light blue government-provided Port-a-lets still dot the landscape up and down some of the hollows, narrow twisted strips of relatively flat land carved between the mountains by old creeks and rivers.

“We continue to need volunteers and financial assistance so we can continue to provide this ministry,” White said. As much as help is desperately needed, to be the most beneficial, “please call before you come,” he said. “Don’t just show up, because we need to plan for and coordinate your activity.”

To provide disaster relief most efficiently, White said people who are willing to assist in the continuing recovery operation should first call their state convention disaster relief directors to see if they already have a trip to West Virginia planned or some collections organized, or contact White’s office directly at (304) 757-0944, ext. 105.

“At the present time we have all the cleaning supplies we need,” White said. Financial contributions to help purchase building supplies should be designated for disaster relief, then sent to the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists, Number One Mission Way, Scott Depot, WV 25560.

Several slide shows documenting various aspects of the July 8 flood disaster in southern West Virginia are available at www.state.wv.us/governor/wvflood/photos.asp.

To be added to an e-mail distribution list to receive updates on this and other Southern Baptist disaster relief efforts, as well as how to get training to become a Southern Baptist disaster relief leader, log on to www.namb.net/dr/.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: W. VA DEVASTATION.

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  • Debbie Moore