By Philip Timothy, Managing Editor
ALEXANDRIA – Disaster relief leaders are asking for more workers to volunteer to meet the overwhelming demand for assistance in mud-out and related services caused by historic floods in Louisiana.
“Our disaster relief people began working as soon as the floodwaters began to go down,” said John Hebert, Louisiana Baptists State Director of Missions. He added that Louisiana has 1,000 certified disaster relief “yellow shirts” deployed around the state “working eight to 10 hours daily.”
“Their numbers have been bolstered by Southern Baptist disaster relief teams from 20 states,” adding about another 1,000 volunteers, Hebert said. But even with help from other faith-based organizations, kids helping from schools and churches organizing their members locally, the 61,000 flooded homes needing restoration far exceed the manpower available now to respond.
“We are going to get a big shot in the arm this weekend, but the biggest influx of people will take place Labor Day weekend,” Hebert estimated from reports he’s receiving from around the country. “Louisiana is about to see the biggest mobilization of manpower since Hurricane Katrina.”
But he emphasized even more help is needed quickly to help homeowners eliminate the possibility of “black mold” before the growth of these biological toxins worsen the situation.
Reports from the field indicate the problem already is developing rapidly.
“We went yesterday (Aug. 25) and the mold had already gotten into the ceiling,” said Robby Poole, pastor of Longview Baptist Church in Deville. “In this heat and humidity it is literally spreading like wildfire.”
“Mold is nothing to be taken lightly,” said Alan Knuckles, Director of Missions for Acadia, Louisiana and Mt. Olive Baptist Associations. “I have trained more than 200 in the one-hour mud out course and I caution them all to be very careful to wear their masks and gloves when doing a house.
“Of course, I went in to assess a home the other day,” said Knuckles, “And I forgot to put on my mask. I wasn’t in there very long and I began to cough.”
Knuckles also issued a plea for experienced disaster relief workers to step up.
“We need our trained DR guys to respond,” he said. “If they are waiting for a phone call, don’t. We need help and we need it now.”
Hebert said Louisiana Baptists’ disaster relief organization is readying for the expected uptick of help coming this weekend and for the three-day Labor Day holiday.
“We are making preparations to house this influx of help,” said Hebert. “And it couldn’t come at a better time.
“Look, I thank God for the help and support we have been getting from all over the United States,” he said. “So far, we have received $260,000 in donations, received countless truckloads of much-needed supplies and food, and lots of prayers.
“But now we are praying God will stir a great army of volunteers to come and help us try to get ahead of this thing,” said Hebert. “To every volunteer, church, association and neighbor, I just want to say God bless you.”