Plans were made during a conference call Aug. 29 for Disaster Relief response in Louisiana, two days before Hurricane Gustav made landfall, and while Hurricane Hanna was still charting an uncertain course.
ALEXANDRIA – Plans were made during a conference call Aug. 29 for Disaster Relief response in Louisiana, two days before Hurricane Gustav made landfall, and while Hurricane Hanna was still charting an uncertain course.
The call included all 40 state/regional convention SBC Disaster Relief directors, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, and the North American Mission Board Disaster Relief leaders.
According to notes taken at that meeting, the American Red Cross planned an “initial wave” of 100,000 volunteers to Louisiana, 30,000 to Mississippi and 20,000 to Alabama.
“Staging talks have begun with states,” reported ARC’s Scott Meyer. A bit later in the conversation he asked for the feeding unit directors to be onsite at their assigned locations by Aug. 30.
“Sites are picked out and cleared from Slidell to Sulphur,” reported Gibbie McMillan, Louisiana Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief director. “Donnie Kimbell will be serving with ARC as liaison and will be onsite Sunday. David Abernathy will be Incident Commander for this event. Four feeding units are available from Louisiana Disaster Relief. ARC has asked Southern Baptist Disaster Relief to cover shelter feeding in Alexandria. Contra-flow evacuations will begin on [highways] 55 and 49 this weekend [Aug 30-31].”
This pre-planning shows the effectiveness that can happen when people and organizations work together, McMillian told the Message last Friday, Sept. 26.
“Plans are for states that responded to Katrina, to go to the same area for Gustav,” according to the conference call notes. “State units may be called out Monday or Tuesday [Sept. 1-2]. … Food will be in Louisiana in boxes and refers [refrigerated units] by Saturday. [Aug. 29]”
The LBC feeding unit was in Baton Rouge on Tuesday [Sept. 2], reported Stacey Billger, LBC media missions strategist. Oklahoma’s unit followed two days later, upon its return from Denver, reported Sam Porter, that state convention’s disaster relief director.
Louisiana has four feeding units, reported Christi Bates, LBC DR administrative assistant to McMillan: LBC, Rolling Hills, BAGNO and Northshore.
The term “feeding unit” actually is a bit of a misnomer. Some Southern Baptist units are large enough to both prepare and serve 40,000 meals a day; some small enough to handle 5,000 meals a day or fewer.
In an arrangement crafted over the last nearly 40 years between The Salvation Army and American Red Cross, Southern Baptists prepare the food purchased by either TSA or ARC, which then is scooped into Cambro-insulated containers and sent out on ERVs – emergency response vehicles. The “ERV” term brings military images to mind – think armored tanks with caterpillar traction wheels – but not so. ERVs are the size and shape of department store delivery trucks.
The ERVs take loaded Cambros to other sites, such as First Baptist Golden Meadow, where Southern Baptist volunteers dish the food into meal-sized, white foam “clamshells,” or the ERVs pull into a high-traffic location, such as the post office in Hackberry, where meals are dished up and handed outside the serving window of an TSA or ARC ERV.
Feeding preparation units (which also often have a serving line) have been set up across southern Louisiana since Sept. 2. They have moved around some, depending on need.
Food serving sites also have changed depending on the need. What is known with some certainty is that meal preparation sites have been in Baton Rouge, Colyell, Layafette, Houma and Sulphur.
As of press date, meal preparation sites still are at Coteau Baptist Church in Houma and Maplewood Baptist in Sulphur, with additional food distribution sites ongoing as well.
They could continue another week or more, depending on the need, McMillan said.
“Disaster relief involves much more than just feeding people, but almost always it starts with meeting that immediate need,” McMillan said.
Chain saw and mud out units come as the second phase of SBC Disaster Relief; rebuilding and recovery units follow. Volunteers are needed. Not yet certified? The next official SBC DR training is Oct. 10-11 at Coteau Baptist Church in Houma. Call LBC DR at 318.448.3402 for more information.