By David Dawson
Baptist and Reflector
FRANKLIN — Wes Jones is accustomed to dealing with the unpredictable. It’s his job.
He’s been involved with flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, power outages and all in between.
But even Jones, the Disaster Relief specialist for the Tennessee Baptist Mission Board, admits that the current confluence of instability, uneasiness and confusion — created by the COVID-19 pandemic — has been a major challenge.
“It’s different than anything we’ve dealt with before,” said Jones. “It’s very unusual on a lot of fronts.”
All across the state, Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief teams have jumped into action in recent weeks, providing food, medical supplies, water and other needs that have emerged in the midst of the pandemic.
Jones is in the process of trying to coordinate those relief efforts. He said it’s been a daunting assignment simply because of the vast area — essentially the entire state of Tennessee — that is in need of help of some kind.
For Jones, it’s almost been like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without even looking at the box to see what is being built.
“I think that’s been the biggest challenge — just the element of the unknown and the amount of area that we are trying to cover,” said Jones.
“Usually, when we have a storm or flooding, it’s essentially in one central place, covering two or three counties,” Jones said. “But with this, you are talking about something that is spread out. We are looking at 19 counties right now.”
Jones said there has been no shortage of volunteers, both trained and untrained DR workers, who have contacted him and his staff about helping. He said he has been encouraged to see the high number of individuals who are willing to sacrifice their personal time to serve others.
“The greatest thing to me is just the way that the churches and the associations have come together during this time,” said Jones. “People truly want to help.”
Among the services being provided is the delivery of Personal Protective Equipment — known as PPEs — to hospitals across Tennessee.
Food deliveries are also critical during this time, when grocery stores are low on supplies and when children, who normally eat meals at school, are now at home.
The list of services being provided is extensive, and includes relief efforts all across the state (as of April 8):
Anderson County: Food preparation and delivery, showers;
Blount County: Food prep, distribution;
Bradley County: Feeding homeless shelter;
Carter, Johnson County: Food distribution;
Davidson County: Feeding, preparing to serve at COVID shelter for homeless;
Decatur / Henderson County: Food delivery;
Hamblen County: Putting together hospital beds, providing supplies, food delivery;
Hamilton County: Food distribution, providing warehouse assistance, food bank;
Haywood County: Food delivery;
Henderson County: Feeding elderly;
Knox County: Food preparation and distribution, possible shower and laundry;
Madison County: Food distribution;
Montgomery County: Delivering PPE’s to County Sheriff, food distribution;
Morgan County: House damage;
Shelby County: PPEs and cleaning supplies;
Washington County: Food distribution;
White County: Assistance with storm damage;
Williamson County: Delivering PPEs to Williamson Medical Center.
Some DR teams are also helping in ways that do not require individuals to leave their houses.
The Lyons Creek team, for instance, is putting together homemade masks and donating them to the UT Medical Center. Additional DR teams are doing similar projects while serving as the hands and feet of Jesus during this time.
“The willingness that people have to help others is always incredible, and we’ve seen so much of it during this time,” said Jones.
“God’s people always respond in a crisis and demonstrate God’s love by loving others.”