By Sharon Mager
Hendersonville, Tenn.—Middle River Baptist Church Member and state Disaster Relief (DR) Director George Blevins has been known in the Maryland/Delaware DR world for 20 years. On Jan 27, Blevins received the 2015 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Distinguished Service Award, Region 1 at a ceremony at an annual DR Conference in Hendersonville, Tenn.
In nominating Blevins, Ellen Udovich, the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network’s Strategist for Church Strengthening & Community Engagement: Disaster Relief, who acts as a liaison between national disaster needs and Blevins, the churches and DR workers, cited Blevins’ consistent service along with his “servant’s heart.”
“George quietly works behind the scenes to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission,” Udovich wrote in her recommendation letter.
Udovich shared that in a recent heroic effort, Blevins volunteered to deliver flood buckets to support the ministry effort of South Carolina DR partners.
“George left home before dawn, safely delivered the buckets, bunked overnight with the teams in Sumter and returned to Baltimore the following day, just in time to make sure everything would be ready when the church’s weekly food ministry opened the next morning. In his eyes, it was just another day of doing whatever he could to love and serve people in need.
“When civil unrest in Baltimore prompted the Red Cross to put our feeding unit on standby last spring, George not only had the unit ready, he arranged for his church to feed and house the volunteers. As the situation changed, the Red Cross asked for laundry units to begin service at several National Guard armories by the next day. Suddenly, George was delighted to be maintaining and troubleshooting not just the Maryland laundry unit, but also four others from our regional partners. And, oh yes, also advising the church secretary that he needed more rooms for all of those incoming volunteers to sleep,” wrote Udovich.
When a church in the Baltimore Baptist Association was flooded last winter as a result of a frozen pipe, George not only came to help, he brought the equipment that the small congregation needed, he encouraged them, teaching them to do the recovery work themselves and to do it in the proper way.
Blevins said his response to disaster relief really goes back to his early teen years living in northern North Carolina and his experience in the great blizzard of 1960. The historic event was really a series of snowfalls that began Feb. 13 and continued, on an average of every other day until March 26. Drifts threatened to overtake houses. Food drops were necessary.
“We got so much snow. It was still on the ground in May and even into June. The total was 128 inches. With the wind blowing and drifting, roads were closed. It was really bad,” Blevins said.
His school was closed and became a control center for the National Guard and Red Cross.
George Blevins and his brother, Richard, wanted something to do. They worked through the days shoveling, clearing roads to help their father get to his job at a furniture factory, and to get supplies and to help their neighbors.
“We lived in the country. There was no access to the main road. We opened a section of road to get from our home to the main road. Our neighbor was a logger and had a small ‘dozer.’ We used it to clear the roads.
The family purposely left their car on the side of the road so neighbors could get supplies.
Living through that incredible snowstorm, and helping his family and neighbors, had a huge impact on George Blevins. So when he moved to Baltimore, and heard about the Network wanting to get involved with DR in the late 80’s, Blevins stepped forward. He trained, earning his yellow hat, the progressed to the blue and white hats, each hat representing a different level of DR management. In 2001, just a few months before the terrorist attacks of Sept.11, Blevins assumed the full time role of state director.
Since then, Blevins said God has blessed tremendously. “We began training, and building the unit, but we didn’t have much money to work with,” he said. But God moved in the hearts of associations and church leaders to step out in faith and support the ministry and leaders.
“Whenever we needed a leader for a specific area in the ministry, God would bring that person to us, either through a referral or them contacting us to get information.
Now, the Network DR ministry includes feeding, laundry, communications, mud-out, chain saw, and chaplain services.
Blevins also organized a radio club. He asked two men from a church in a neighboring association for advice in repairing the chaplain’s trailer’s ham radio antenna. This resulted in the opportunity to share the DR ministry with many ham radio operators from several churches.
Blevins continues to recruit volunteers. He is now working to meet with pastors in the association, encouraging them to lead their churches in DR ministry. He also began helping the Red Cross identify churches that may be able to serve as shelters for smaller disaster events.
Udovich said, “George Blevins has set a high bar for service and continues to influence those around him to do likewise.”