The first round of Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units relocated to designated staging sites in the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Ivan, Sept 17, 2004. Some 35 units were dispatched and were en route to southern Alabama and the western Florida Panhandle, where nearly a dozen residents lost their lives.
About 35 Southern Baptist Disaster Relief units from Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Iowa and Illinois, stationed at the Atlanta Motor Speedway for more than a week, will be relocating to designated staging sites in Alabama and Florida. Meanwhile, additional units remain on standby in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia and Alabama.
According to Randy Creamer, manager of the North American Mission Board (NAMB) disaster relief operation center in Atlanta, some teams already began serving meals from their mobile kitchen units. Other units are set to land throughout the week, upon receiving the go-ahead from the American Red Cross.
“As soon as we get these sites opened up, we’ll start moving some units there,” Creamer said. “We’re waiting for the American Red Cross, primarily, to say go for it, and we’ll do it.”
The staging sites, as listed by Creamer had been tentatively set in nine municipalities in Alabama; Foley, Robertsdale, Mobile, Saraland, Bay Minette, Flomaton, Andalusia, New Brockton and Dothan; ten locations have been chosen along the Florida coastline: Pensacola, Milton, Crestview and Marianna, as well as cities near Highway 98 including Gulf Breeze, Fort Walton Beach and Lynn Haven.
The stationed units will be equipped with showering stalls, food, water, and chainsaws for cleanup. Many of the workers will also be helping re-build the damaged churches.
Rick Lance, executive director-treasurer of the Alabama Baptist State Convention explained: “Our building has been closed since Wednesday due to power failure. However, our disaster relief teams have been working throughout the crisis, and some of them have been stationed in the command center housed in our building.”
Tommy Puckett, Alabama’s disaster relief coordinator, said he had heard of two churches with damage.
“The most severe by far was Romar Beach Baptist Church” on the Gulf Coast, said Puckett, the state’s men’s ministries director. “We don’t have the specifics but have been told it’s sustained major and heavy damage.”
In addition, Fairmount Baptist Church in Red Level, Ala., suffered roof damage and water leaking through the roof, Puckett reported.
“Some directors of missions have told us they’re not yet able to contact all the pastors in their associations,” Puckett stated. “We are praying no additional churches have suffered damage, though we are still waiting on calls from other areas of the state.”
“The Robertsdale unit will begin serving meals on Saturday and can prepare between 10,000 and 15,000 meals, depending on the severity of needs,” Puckett said. “A communications unit will also be there as well as our shower trailer, which provides showering facilities for volunteers.”
Contributions can be made online at www.namb.net/disasterrelief or mailed to North American Mission Board, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Since Aug. 1, NAMB has received nearly $291,000 in gifts designated toward ongoing disaster relief efforts.