Disaster relief workers keep helping victims
JEFFERSON CITY – They say there’s no rest for the weary, and that phrase applied to Missouri Baptist disaster relief in this past year.
After immediately jumping in to serve in hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi last fall, the volunteers in distinctive yellow hats began the year still cleaning up the debris and mud in New Orleans. And that was before disaster struck Missouri.
Danny Decker, Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) specialist and state director for disaster relief, said 2006 was a successful year, even if it meant the volunteers were strained to the breaking point.
“(It) has been a year of recovery and regrouping,” he said. “All of our volunteers were exhausted. A lot of them used up all their vacation time and sick leave just by participating in disaster relief. I want to say thank you to all those who worked and labored.”
Disaster relief in Missouri this year included: 48,357 hot meals served; 1,047 hot showers for volunteers and emergency response workers; 500 loads of laundry for volunteers and emergency response workers; 225 chainsaw cleanup jobs; one roof covered with a tarp; 50 Bibles distributed; 83 children cared for; 412 total volunteer days; 5,232 total work hours; 328 new volunteers trained; 1,600 total disaster relief volunteers in Missouri Baptist life; six professions of faith as a result of the April 2 tornadoes in Caruthersville; 12 total professions of faith through disaster relief.
Missouri Baptist disaster relief responses were not just limited to severe weather cleanup and feeding those without power. The southeastern feeding unit out of Cape Girardeau fed rescue workers this summer as they searched for a missing elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease near St. Louis. She was found safe and sound, if a little hungry, after two days.
“We have one of the premier feeding kitchens,” Decker said, referring to the southeast unit. “They’re top-notch.”
Earlier this winter, three chainsaw units made the trek to Buffalo, N.Y., to clear trees and other debris downed by the record snowfall and ice. That was before crews were called to clear downed trees after Missouri’s own winter blast.
One woman in particular took the time to thank disaster relief workers for their efforts to help clear the debris caused by the heavy ice and snow. Her e-mail to disaster relief leaders is just one of many such sentiments. She wrote:
“We had been at my mother-in-law’s (78 years old) and spent two days cleaning up her yard over Thanksgiving. After we left to go back to Michigan, the ice storm hit. There was no way we could go back. My husband didn’t know what to do. Then we received a phone call saying the Southern Baptists were coming to clean up the yard. What a shout of praise! Our mission dollars are spent wisely.”
Decker said he and other disaster relief workers are continually looking for ways to improve Missouri Baptist disaster relief’s infrastructure and organization including recruiting more regional coordinators and training up more “blue hats” (volunteers to take the lead of a unit).
“The stronger our regions are, the better they will be able to respond to local disasters,” he said.
There are four disaster relief training events scheduled for the first quarter of 2007. Those who are 18 years of age or older may participate. For more information, contact Decker at 1-800-736-6227 or go to the Disaster Relief website at www.mobaptist.org/home/mbcdr.
First Baptist Church, New London, is offering training in chainsaw and mass care (feeding) Jan. 19-20. The cost is $10 per person. To register call the Bethel Baptist Association Office at (573) 221-0182.
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (MBTS) will host training in chainsaw, mass care and chaplaincy Feb. 2-3. Cost is $25 per person. To register call Alyssa Davis at MBTS at (816) 414-3733.
The state training event will be in Marshall March 16-17. Call Decker for more information.
Laclede Baptist Association also will host training April 20-21. Watch The Pathway or www.mobaptist.org/home/mbcdr for more information as it becomes available.