By Lonnie Wilkey
FRANKLIN — With teams deployed, and still needed, in North Carolina, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers will be doing “double duty” in the days ahead.
DR teams will head to Crawfordville, Fla., on Saturday, Oct. 12, to set up incident command, chain saw teams and feeding, shower and laundry units. Volunteers will be headquartered at Lake Ellen Baptist Church in Crawfordville, said Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Volunteers from Nolachucky Baptist Association, based in Morristown, will man the incident command post while the Sullivan Baptist Association DR team will set up feeding operations, Jones said.
Hurricane Michael struck the Florida Panhandle near Mexico Beach, Fla., on Oct. 10. It was the third strongest storm to hit the Continental United States in 14 years and the strongest ever to hit the Panhandle. In Florida, Panama City and Mexico Beach, and several towns in between, were decimated by Michael, which fell just two miles per hour short of a Category 5 storm. More than 350,000 people lost power in Florida, according to news reports.
The damage in 12 county areas has been devastating, said Denton Beall, state director of Florida Baptist Disaster Relief. In addition to Crawfordville (where Tennessee Baptists will operate), other feeding and recovery units will work in Tallahassee, Lynn Haven, Perry, and Spring Hill.
Jones said chain saw teams are in the initial group heading to Florida, but more teams will be needed in the days ahead. Tennessee DR is coordinating efforts with Florida Baptist Disaster Relief, Jones added.
The remnant of Hurricane Michael is expected to roll through North and South Carolina. Both are still recovering from Hurricane Florence which hit about four weeks ago.
Randy C. Davis, president and executive director of the TBMB, noted that as Hurricane Michael was approaching the Florida Panhandle, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief was preparing for a possible call out.
“After hundreds of our folks responded to helping in the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence,” said Davis, “We will also have boots on the ground in Florida within 72 hours of Hurricane Michael’s landfall. I am very thankful and appreciative of a prepared, compassionate, sacrificial and long-term response by Tennessee Baptists.
“And every step of the way, these men and women will be sharing the gospel of hope with many people who feel despair. Please pray for our great army of disaster relief volunteers,” he added.
“Southern Baptists will send several hundred volunteers to serve those who have been ravaged by Hurricane Michael,” said Sam Porter, national director for disaster relief with the North American Mission Board.
American Red Cross has asked SBDR to prepare to serve up to 30,000 meals a day. SBDR teams reported more than 2,000 volunteers are ready to go and serve with recovery and feeding units. Sixteen SBDR kitchens from 11 different Baptist state DR teams (including Tennessee) are available. Those kitchens have the capacity to serve more than 200,000 meals per day if needed.
Jones stressed Tennessee DR will be looking for teams to go to both North Carolina and Florida in the upcoming weeks. “If you have a team that can go, please call us and let us know the dates,” he said. Individuals, both credentialed and non-credentialed, can contact Tennessee DR and will be assigned to a team, the Tennessee DR leader added.
Jones encouraged anyone interested in serving to contact Elizabeth Holmes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Pray for all the folks who have been affected and the volunteers who have been stretched so much over the past month,” Jones said.
William Maxwell, administrative director for the TBMB, noted that cash donations are still needed for relief efforts in both North Carolina and Florida. Cash donations is the best way to assist volunteers in meeting the needs of hurricane victims, he added.
Donations for hurricane relief efforts can be made at http://tndisasterrelief.org/contributions.
— This article includes reporting by Brandon Elrod for Baptist Press.