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Urgent call for more volunteers

PROGRESS — Piles of mud-out debris and other ruined materials from Farrington Mission in Houston’s Fifth Ward line the road for future removal. Repairing the mission is estimated to cost $75,000, with $40,000 of that going toward its women’s medical clinic. (BP photo)

Story:

By William H. Perkins Jr.

Editor

The mass feeding unit of Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief (MBDR) is going full force at Idlewild Church in Lutz, Fl., in the Tampa area, and has reached its capacity of 20,000 meals per day for several days now for victims of Hurricane Irma and first responders involved in the post-hurricane effort.

Volunteers from Mississippi Baptist churches are needed at the feeding unit in Florida as soon as possible. Volunteers will receive on-site training for duty at the feeding unit.

The MBDR mass feeding unit consists of a fully self-contained kitchen mounted on a tractor-trailer. The unit carries potable water, its own electrical power generator, and propane supplies for cooking. It was followed to Florida for this deployment by another tractor-trailer filled to maximum capacity with cooking supplies in case local deliveries are interrupted.

In Texas, Mississippi Baptists are continuing their full flow of volunteers into areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. There is much work to be done. Mississippi Baptist teams working out of Orange, Texas, for mud-out/clean-up of homes are especially in demand and will continue to be needed in that area for the foreseeable future, as approved work orders are being received in massive numbers.

After eight days of response in the Orange area, the MBDR Incident Command team has coordinated 304 volunteers, 32 completed mud-out/cleanup jobs, 1,458 meals for volunteers, and 98 ministry contacts.

“This is outstanding service,” said Don Gann, MBDR coordinator and director of men’s ministry at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. “Still, over 200 work orders are open. Teams continue to be needed.”

For more information on how to volunteer, contact the Men’s Ministry Department at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board. E-mail: msdisasterrelief@mbcb.org. Telephone: (601) 292-3335 or toll-free outside Jackson (800) 748-1651, ext. 335. Web site: www.mbcb.org.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR), in which MBDR participates, continues to deploy volunteers to help respond to immediate needs in Florida and the Caribbean left by Hurricane Irma while still maintaining focus on enormous needs from Hurricane Harvey in Houston, south Texas, and Louisiana.

In Florida, six Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) feeding units from several states in addition to Mississippi are operational.

Florida SBDR volunteers already have initiated cleanup and recovery operations in pockets around the state, from Jacksonville to Naples. Crews from other states will arrive over the course of the next week.

In the days following Hurricane Irma’s landfall in Florida, damage assessment teams generally came back with better news than had been expected prior to the storm. Irma nearly leveled several islands in the Florida Keys, however, and widespread power outages remain a serious concern throughout the state.

Several shelters have been set up to accommodate those who are still unable to return to their homes in the Keys.

Reuters reported that Hurricane Irma is responsible for 82 deaths in the United States and in the Caribbean. There have been at least 32 deaths in Florida and seven in Georgia and South Carolina. More than half of the fatalities attributed to the storm happened in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The situation has been so difficult in the Caribbean that SBDR workers had not been able to get to the Virgin Islands as of Thursday. An Alabama disaster relief kitchen that had been en route to Puerto Rico has instead been directed to the Virgin Islands after it became clear the need there was far greater.

Feeding units in Texas have started to consolidate their work as people leave shelters to return home or make other arrangements after Harvey’s widespread flooding. Even as thousands of homes still need initial mud-out work, a few are ready for rebuild efforts with months of work ahead.

A large SBDR team from New Mexico has arrived in Louisiana to assist with Harvey recovery efforts there. Teams from Colorado have been feeding and mudding-out homes, clearing debris and muck from flooded houses. There are still sites in Texas where SBDR teams are providing childcare.

“God has given the church a great opportunity to respond,” North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell said. “I am asking every Southern Baptist pastor to prayerfully consider sending volunteers to Texas or Florida. Even if you have never sent a volunteer to a disaster before, we need you and the storm survivors need you.”

Brandon Elrod of the North American Mission Board, writing for Baptist Press, contributed to this article.

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