Tennessee Baptist DR volunteers will be needed for months
By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — The destruction caused by recent hurricanes Michael and Florence will keep Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief and rebuild teams busy for months and even years to come, say veteran disaster relief officials.
“The combined devastation of these two hurricanes rival, if not exceed, any storm to hit the United States — maybe not in the total number of people directly affected, but by the sheer scope and amount of destruction,” observed Wes Jones, disaster relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board.
Jones noted that people really can’t comprehend the impact of the last two hurricanes. “We watched as Florence dumped inches upon inches of rain on North Carolina and it made its way into South Carolina leaving tremendous flooding in its path, taking weeks for some people to even get back into their homes to see the damage,” Jones said.
“Then, along came Michael and we saw the utter devastation of the area from Mexico Beach to Panama City. Some people think that this is the only area that was impacted by Michael, but that is far from the truth,” he continued.
“Severe impact was felt from the panhandle of Florida up through the corner of Alabama and slamming into Georgia as a category 3 hurricane.”
Jones said 23 counties in Georgia have been declared federal disaster areas as a result. In addition, Texas has had three major flooding events and Soddy-Daisy in Tennessee was flooded, he said.
Don Owen, disaster relief director for Nolachucky Baptist Association and incident commander for current operations at Lake Ellen Baptist Church in Crawfordville, Fla., noted that while damage in Crawfordville was minimal, there is major destruction just six miles to the south.
“Panama City is absolutely demolished,” he said.
Owen, a veteran of many disasters over the years, was personally affected by Hurricane Michael. His mother-in-law lives there and her house was destroyed. “It’s literally heartbreaking,” he said.
Chain saw teams from Nolachucky Baptist Association, Cumberland Baptist Association and Haywood Baptist Association teams are at work, Owen said. More teams will be needed.
In addition, the laundry unit from Watauga Baptist Association and the laundry/shower trailers from Sevier County Association of Baptists and Holston Baptist Association are set up and operational.
Jones participated in a conference call with other state DR directors and the North American Mission Board earlier this week. He listened to the reports of his counterparts in both Georgia and Florida.
He noted that two major DR leaders both live in Panama City. “Imagine trying to oversee an operation of this size and magnitude while your own personal home has suffered damage. Yet, they have both continued to function and serve the other people who are hurting and are in need of hope during this time.”
Jones said the Georgia state director compared the damage to that of an F-3 tornado, but “instead of being one-half mile wide and a couple of miles long, it was hundreds of miles wide and long.”
The Tennessee DR leader said teams will be needed for quite some time. In North Carolina, teams have completed some 2,500 jobs but there are about that many left to do, he said. Job requests will continue to mount in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, Jones added.
Jones said as teams inform Tennessee DR that they want to go, the information will be sent to a coordinator at the North American Mission Board who will assign teams to areas based on the greatest need.
“That means you may be assigned to Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina or even Texas if the need is greatest there. We hope to have these assignments within a few days of deployment, but things may always change as things change on the ground. Please be fluid,” Jones stressed.
In addition, Jones reminded volunteer teams that they “must use appropriate safety gear and follow safety protocols. I want you to be safe. Remember that we all share in the responsibility for our own safety, the safety of those around us and those we are serving.”
Donations for hurricane relief efforts can be made at http://tndisasterrelief.org/contributions.
Challenge for DR Volunteers
TBMB Disaster Relief Specialist
(1) Please pray. Encourage your churches, your circle of friends and others to pray for those thousands upon thousands who have been affected by these disasters, for those who are responding, those who will continue to respond and what will be your part in assisting those in need.
(2) We still need volunteers to continue to step up and serve — especially in the areas of chain saw, flood recovery, mass feeding, chaplaincy and incident management. For those of you who have already notified us of your team’s availability and dates, this does not change anything for you. We will continue with assigning you locations based on the greatest need at the time of your availability. We need teams that have not responded in some time to look hard at their schedules to see if you can field a time in the coming few months. We will be working on scheduling out teams from now until Christmas and beyond, as long as the need remains.
(3) When looking at developing your team, teams MAY take non-credentialed volunteers with them. Non-credentialed volunteers are limited in some of the equipment they can use but there is a lot they can do. Forms for both credentialed and non-credentialed volunteers (available from Tennessee DR) must be completed prior to deployment and if any items show up on the background part of the application, the volunteer will not be allowed to deploy until the background check is completed. Team leaders must also give safety orientation to all non-credentialed volunteers. Use this response to introduce new people to how we serve through disaster relief.