Response to Katrina largest ever for Southern Baptists

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Response to Hurricane Katrina will be the largest ever for Southern Baptists, with more than 1,000 volunteers and 100 mobile disaster relief units activated to hurricane- and tornado-ravaged regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

By Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 31, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from as far away as New Mexico, Michigan and Virginia were serving in various capacities at more than 20 locations. Mobile kitchen teams were set to begin operations at many locations today. Southern Baptist volunteers also are manning two American Red Cross kitchens and two Salvation Army kitchens.

“We’ve worked for 35 years to build capacity to respond to something like this. It will be a major test,” said Jim Burton, director of volunteer mobilization at the North American Mission Board in Alpharetta, Ga. “This is day 3 of the disaster, which is typically the most difficult day. We are beginning to understand the extent of the damage and the logistical challenges that lie ahead.”

As Katrina approached the Louisiana and Mississippi coastline earlier in the week, the American Red Cross requested Southern Baptists deploy enough volunteers and services to feed 300,000 people a day. Because devastation from the hurricane is so widespread, it has been difficult for response teams to get into affected areas.

“The roads and security are still a major issue,” said Mickey Caison, disaster operations center manager. “It is difficult to get water and other supplies in. That continues to be a problem.”

“We had one unit assigned yesterday to New Orleans,” Burton said, “but it was stopped by the Mississippi State Patrol and has since been reassigned to Baton Rouge.”

Burton said if all goes well Southern Baptist volunteers should be serving 300,000 meals by the weekend.

Hurricane Katrina is one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States. Damage estimates already exceed $25 billion, according to various reports.

Following is the latest information about where Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units have been activated in Louisiana and Mississippi:

Louisiana –- Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Lafayette, Bogalusa, Covington, Hammond, Prairieville and Kenner.

Mississippi -– Biloxi, Pascagoula, Hattiesburg, McComb, Meridian, Clinton, Laurel, Lucedale, Gautior and Hattiesburg.

Other units are located in Mobile, Ala., and Carrolton, Ga.

Georgia Baptist Disaster Relief has activated kitchens, cleanup and recovery operations for Carrolton, Ga., where 100 homes were damaged or destroyed resulting from tornadoes spawned from Katrina.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has more than 600 mobile disaster response units and 30,000 trained volunteers. State Baptist conventions recruit and train volunteers from Southern Baptist churches. NAMB coordinates multi-state and international responses by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.

Contributions to offset direct costs of the disaster relief 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/dr or mailed to the North American Mission Board, Box 116543, Atlanta, Ga., 30368-6543.


For regular updates on Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts, visit www.namb.net/dr.