Labor Day no holiday for disaster relief volunteers - Word&Way

Labor Day no holiday for disaster relief volunteers

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)—Labor Day was no picnic for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers involved in responses to flooding along the East Coast and in North Dakota.

Flood damage in Wilmington, Vt., underscores the need for mud-out volunteers requested by Baptist Convention of New England officials. (BP PHOTO)

And those responses to floods and fires were afoot even before Tropical Storm Lee dumped up to a foot of rain along the Gulf Coast areas of Louisiana and Mississippi. The storm then moved northeast, where it spawned tornadoes in Alabama and Georgia, damaging dozens of homes and causing flash floods in the Atlanta area. At least two people died and 16,000 customers were left without electricity as a result of Lee, according to the Associated Press.

In the wake of Hurricane Irene, Mike Flannery, state disaster relief director for the New York Baptist Convention and a director of missions in Buffalo, reported recovery work will be a crucial need in upper-state New York and north New Jersey, where water levels were receding but were not yet low enough to insert mud-out units.

"We are desperate for mud-out units," said Flannery, who cited a minimum need for six mud-out teams from other state Baptist conventions.

Flannery also is having to educate inexperienced New York flood victims who don't know they must gut their homes down to the framing and do mold and mildew removal before re-occupying their houses.

About 60 men and women working through North Carolina Baptist Men prepare thousands of meals for residents left without utilities after Hurricane Irene. (BP PHOTO/Mike Creswell)

Flannery is coordinating three emergency food-service operations—two in Washingtonville, N.Y., run by New York and Mississippi Baptists, and another at Trinity Baptist Church in Schenectady, run by 40 feeding volunteers from Kentucky. The Schenectady operation—preparing 6,500 daily meals—has the capacity to churn out 15,000 meals a day.

"Please tell Southern Baptists to keep us in prayer," Flannery said. "In times of crisis, people point their eyes and ears to the Lord." Flannery said the New York flooding is the most pervasive disaster in his five years in disaster relief in the state.

Volunteers from 25 of the 42 state conventions are assisting in many other disaster relief responses in the 11 states pounded by Hurricane Irene, including feeding units in North Carolina and Virginia.

In North Carolina—where Irene struck its eastern coast and 42 counties have been declared disaster areas—Southern Baptist Disaster Relief fielded more than 1,200 job requests for mud-out and chainsaw work and completed about 600, reported Gaylon Moss, state disaster relief director for the Baptist Convention of North Carolina.

"In North Carolina, four have accepted Jesus as Savior, more than 1,200 volunteer days have been recorded, and about 88,000 hot meals have been prepared," Moss said. Disaster relief units from seven state conventions have responded at 13 separate sites across North Carolina.

Mark Madison of the Baptist Convention of New England said needs are widespread in that region.

"We're focusing on four locations in southern Vermont and in Montpelier. We have 100 jobs assessed and ready to work. We really need 12 more mud-out teams as well as chaplain/assessment teams to make an impact," Madison said.

In all, after Hurricane Irene, 375 chainsaw and mud-out jobs have been completed; 13 people have made decisions for Christ through 725 gospel presentations and ministry/chaplain contacts; and nearly 2,800 showers and laundry loads have been provided.

To date, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units have prepared nearly 268,000 meals for Irene's victims, volunteers and responders.

Bruce Poss, disaster relief coordinator for the North American Mission Board, supports Madison, Flannery and others in their desperate pleas for mud-out teams from other parts of the country.

Mud-out and feeding continues in Minot, N.D., where 66 people have made professions of faith in Christ and volunteers have delivered 123,000 meals over the last eight weeks, Poss added.

"We still need to show a strong presence in Minot, although a lot of that will start closing down in mid-September, and all of it will be shut down by the end of the month."