States coordinating Isabel relief; chainsaw volunteers needed

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers have concluded the bulk of their response to Hurricane Isabel, with more than 933,000 meals prepared and 1,500 cleanup jobs completed. Individual states in the affected areas are still coordinating the work of chainsaw teams, however, in an effort that could last to the end of the year in some areas.

"Usually at Thanksgiving and Christmas people have time on their hands, so we'll probably be recruiting during that time," said Gaylon Moss, disaster relief director for North Carolina Baptists.

Coordination of the remaining cleanup jobs is now in the hands of the individual state conventions rather than the North American Mission Board, said Terry Henderson, NAMB's disaster relief associate. He said he was pleased with the overall effort, which has involved 24 states and volunteers who have given more than 11,500 days of their time.

The response was the largest in the 37-year history of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in terms of the number of units responding, with 162 units and teams activated as of Oct. 10.

"It all ran pretty smoothly," Henderson said. "We got our units together pretty quickly to cover such a large operation."

Mobile kitchen units, which prepared hundreds of thousands of meals for victims, are now limited largely to preparing food for volunteers and emergency workers. The exception is the continued meal preparation for some residents on Hatteras Village, N.C. -- a "piece of land that was made into a new island" by the storm, as Moss put it.

The number of chainsaw-crew volunteers serving in North Carolina varies, Moss said, estimating about 100 people expected Oct. 18 in Williamston and surrounding areas, Atlantic and Bayboro. While about 900 cleanup and recovery jobs have been completed, another 900 remain, he said.

Coordination of the recovery effort in Virginia is being shared by the two Virginia conventions. The Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention is working through churches in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Gloucester, while the Virginia Baptist Mission Board is working in the Richmond, Hopewell and Newport News areas.

"We're going to try to meet as many of those needs as we can as long as we have volunteers from Virginia and from other partnering states that want to help," said Jim George, disaster relief director for the Virginia Baptist Mission Board.

The holidays might be a good time for volunteers interested in lending a hand, George said.

"We anticipate maybe publicizing a big push for anyone who wants to take their days between Christmas and New Year's Day to come and volunteer," he said.

To assist with coordination of out-of-state volunteers, specific states have been asked to partner directly with state conventions:

-- Volunteers from Florida, Georgia and Alabama have been asked to work with North Carolina Baptists, with information available at www.ncmissions.org.

-- Volunteers from South Carolina, Indiana and Kentucky should contact the Virginia Baptist Mission Board disaster relief office at (804) 915-2455.

-- Volunteers from Tennessee and Illinois have been asked to work with the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia convention, at 1-888-234-7716.

About 28,000 trained volunteers currently are part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief network nationwide. The units generally are owned and operated by state conventions, local associations and churches, and are coordinated nationally by the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

Contributions to offset direct costs of the response may be sent to state conventions, associations or churches responding to the effort, or to the North American Mission Board. NAMB contributions may be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to 4200 North Point Parkway, Alpharetta, GA 30022.


For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr. A downloadable video and photos depicting the response are available through links at www.namb.net.

(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ANSWERING QUESTIONS

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