Posted on : Monday November 12, 2012

Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia disaster relief director Jack Noble (left) confers with SBCV mobilization director Mark Gauthier at the command center for Southern Baptist Disaster Relief response to Hurricane Sandy. The command center is being hosted at the Pennsylvania-South Jersey state convention’s mission house in Harrisburg, Pa. Photo by John Swain

SALISBURY, Md. (BP) — Before Hurricane Sandy ever made landfall, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers were beginning the long effort to aid the East Coast by preparing meals for evacuees in Salisbury, Md.

A feeding unit of the Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware was active Monday (Oct. 29) at James Bennett High School there.

Maryland/Delaware DR director Ellen Udovich said the unit responded to the request from the American Red Cross to provide assistance to evacuees in advance of the storm. The SBDR volunteers already had served 300 meals on their first day of operation. And they were back at work Tuesday morning serving breakfast after the storm passed.

Another Maryland/Delaware feeding unit was activated and preparing to serve meals at Middle River Baptist Church near Baltimore. They will join units activating from a dozen states deploying across the hard-hit Northeast.

North American Mission Board President Kevin Ezell told Baptist Press, “In addition to the devastation this storm is causing, the sheer size of it is going to make it very expensive in terms of relief and cleanup.”

Ezell voiced gratitude “for all of the Southern Baptist volunteers who make our disaster relief efforts possible. This is a time for every Southern Baptist to be praying and to also consider donating to our disaster relief fund.”

SBDR established an area command center for the response on Monday at the Pennsylvania-South Jersey Baptist convention mission house in Harrisburg, Pa. On site less than 30 minutes, area commander for the response, Mark Gauthier, reminded SBDR volunteers why they serve.

“Our purpose is to meet the spiritual and physical needs of those impacted by disaster,” said Gauthier, DR director for the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia state convention.

SBDR area command is implementing the deployment of mobile field kitchens to northern and southern New Jersey, Gauthier reported. The current plan is for the kitchens to be operational by Thursday. Assessments are still being made for responses to other affected areas, Gauthier said.

SBDR volunteers serving from both affected and partnership responding state conventions include the Baptist General Convention of Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland/Delaware, Mississippi, New England, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania-South Jersey, South Carolina, Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Roofing materials and other supplies were being loaded on NAMB DR fleet vehicles Tuesday to begin transport to the affected areas.

From its disaster operations center in Alpharetta, NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through a partnership between NAMB and the SBC’s 42 state conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief programs.

SBDR assets include 82,000 trained volunteers, including chaplains, and some 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, childcare, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained disaster relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.

Southern Baptists and others who want to donate to the disaster relief operations can contact their state conventions or contribute to NAMB’s disaster relief fund via Other ways to donate are to call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”

Joe Conway writes for the North American Mission Board.