U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao announced yesterday a National Emergency Grant of up to $50 million—with an initial release of $16,500,000—to hire approximately 3,630 workers to help Florida recover from Hurricane Charley and Tropical Storm Bonnie. Meanwhile, over 800 Southern Baptist volunteers representing 15 Baptist state conventions are continuing in their aid to the thousands of displaced Floridians whos homes were destroyed or damaged by the worst storm to hit the nation in 12 years.
“This Administration is dedicated to helping Florida recover from these natural disasters,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao. “This grant of up to $50 million will aid with disaster clean-up and provide temporary jobs for workers who can help restore and rebuild the communities in Florida that have been impacted by the storms.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) had counted more than 88,000 homes damaged as of Aug. 18, with more than 140,000 residents in need of shelter.
“We need to pray for those who have been affected by this disaster, for their grieving, for their losses,” said Mickey Caison, manager of the North American Mission Board’s Disaster Operations Center
Caison said the current count of nearly 100 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units activated in southwest Florida could climb to as many as 175 over the next several weeks and months.
While Southern Baptist Disaster Relief efforts approach record proportions in the wake of Hurricane Charley, coordinators of the national response are calling on churches to pray fervently for the victims and volunteers dealing with the storm’s aftermath across southwest Florida.
“It's important that Southern Baptists throughout North America continue to pray about the recovery efforts in Florida,” said Jim Burton, director of the North American Mission Board’s volunteer mobilization team. “Though the national media interest will begin to wane, our operations are escalating. As we mobilize more Southern Baptist disaster volunteers into Florida, we need to pray for traveling mercies, for protection as they work and for discernment as they meet and minister to victims.”
Burton emphasized that Southern Baptists are committed long-term to helping Floridians whose lives have been ripped apart by Hurricane Charley rebuild their futures on a firm foundation.
“As devastating as Hurricane Charley was to Florida, it's bringing out the best in Southern Baptists,” Burton said. “Perhaps no other ministry in Southern Baptist life communicates the care and compassion we have for others as does disaster relief.
“Many of the victims are now angry, and some of that anger will be directed toward God,” Burton added. “We need to pray that the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers in Florida will truly be the hands and feet of a caring God and that the victims see God's love through us.”
According to NAMB, the latest activations of disaster relief teams include:
-- NAMB activated an additional shower unit for First Baptist Church, Punta Gorda.
-- The Virginia Baptist Mission Board activated a mobile kitchen unit and shower unit for First Baptist Church, Punta Gorda, and a chainsaw/recovery team for South Biscayne Baptist Church, North Port, site of the South Incident Command Post.
-- North Carolina Baptist Men activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, a generator and a water purification unit for Pine Castle Baptist Church in Orlando.
-- Texas Baptist Men activated a mobile kitchen unit, shower unit, two chainsaw/recovery teams and a generator for Bartow, Fla.
-- The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma and the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio each activated a chainsaw/recovery team for First Baptist Church, Kissimmee, and the newly designated North Incident Command Post.
-- The South Carolina Baptist Convention also activated two chainsaw/recovery teams for First Baptist, Kissimmee, and Texas Baptist Men activated a communication unit.
-- The Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware activated a four-member kitchen team at First Baptist Church, Kissimmee.
-- The Kentucky Baptist Convention activated a mobile kitchen unit and a chainsaw/recovery team for McGregor Baptist Church in Fort Myers.
Meanwhile, NAMB reports that the following state conventions remain on standby for activation: Arkansas, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana and West Virginia.