Three weeks after historic flooding in West Virginia, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) volunteers continue to serve survivors as they begin the long process of recovery.
NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Jennifer Keppler (center), a member of Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in Colonial Heights, Va., works in the feeding kitchen in Elkview, W.Va., with other Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia volunteers, Ray Guthrie (left), a member of Swift Creek Baptist Church in Midlothian, Va., and Charles Hall, also a member of Swift Creek Baptist. The kitchen had prepared 63,000 meals as of July 10 that were distributed to flood survivors in Kanawha County by American Red Cross and The Salvation Army volunteers.
Southern Baptists are serving in the Charleston, W.Va., area in Kanawha County along the Elk River. SBDR volunteers, including members from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV), manned one of three feeding kitchens in the state. Heritage Baptist Church in Elkview hosted one kitchen that had prepared more than 63,000 meals as of July 10. Feeding unit volunteers also came from the Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network and the Penn-Jersey Baptist Resource Network.
Jack Noble, of SBCV, is serving as feeding coordinator for the Elkview kitchen. He said the collaboration between Southern Baptist volunteers, American Red Cross, The Salvation Army and Heritage Baptist Church at the site was exceptional, noting volunteers were grateful for the church’s hospitality.
“The women of the church were making us breakfast every day serving us homemade cinnamon rolls and sausage and gravy,” Noble said. “The camaraderie at the site went beyond any expectations we could have had on the partnership.”
Teams from Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia worked in the recovery efforts doing tear-outs and mud-outs along with food preparation in Elkview and Clendenin, said Delton Beall, on-site coordinator for area’s SBDR incident command post in Kanawha County. The site is one of four command centers operating within the state. The other SBDR posts are located in Greenbrier and Nicholas counties, along with one in Rainelle, W.Va.
“The volunteers have been a beautiful illustration of having a heart for God and love for people,” Beall said.
In Clendenin, hundreds of homes and businesses were damaged by flood waters leaving many residents still without water or power. A Red Cross distribution center at a major intersection in town became a go-to spot for residents and workers alike to gather supplies, get tetanus shots, receive medical exams, eat a meal and even take a free shower.
Florida SBDR volunteers Chester Gunn and Frank Sledjeski manned a six-unit shower facility parked at the back of the busy distribution hub in Clendenin. Lines at the shower trailer form daily especially at day’s end after residents and workers need to get clean from dealing with mud and removal of debris.
West Virginia disaster relief requested the showers for the community. Florida SBDR recently purchased the new shower unit and transported it directly from the manufacturer to West Virginia for its inaugural use, Beall said.
NAMB photo by Laura Sikes
Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Frank Sledjeski (left), a member of First Baptist Church of Umatilla, Fla., helped man a new shower unit with SBDR volunteer Chester Gunn, a member of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla. The shower unit was located at an American Red Cross distribution center in Clendenin, W.Va., to aid survivors of severe flooding in the area.
Gunn, a member of Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon, Fla., and Sledjeski, a member of First Baptist Church of Umatilla, Fla., said they enjoyed talking to repeat visitors from the community. In eight days, 290 showers were provided.
“We have a captive audience here,” Gunn joked. “You want to wash, you have to listen. I don’t have to go out and look for the people. They come to us. We love on the people here and give them a little hope.”
SBDR volunteers and day volunteers dealt with plenty of mud in flooded homes.
Volunteers from First Baptist Church of Kenova in Kenova, W.V., have made 10 trips to the area to give aid.
“I’ve worked a lot of disasters but here you had hundreds of homes filled with mud,” said pastor Steve Willis of Kenova First Baptist.
“We’re doing what we feel like we need to do to help people,” said volunteer Jerry Saulton, a member of Kenova First Baptist.
Beall said that the “spontaneous untrained volunteers” (SUVS) are an important component to SBDR’s efforts. They are needed and appreciated, he said.
As of the eighth day serving in the area, Beall reported that 26 volunteers had served from Florida SBDR along with 57 SUVS, completing 35 jobs. Eighty-three job requests had come in and 65 chaplaincy/ministry contacts were made.
Phillip Ferrell, 62, had his Clendenin home of 32 years damaged by flood waters. Ten Florida SBDR volunteers worked along with eight volunteers from Moundsville Baptist Church on a tear-out for two days. Mud was everywhere in the home as the team removed insulation and ripped out the ceiling of the flooded basement. Ferrell visited the team, thanking them all for their service.
The North American Mission Board (NAMB) coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which have their own state disaster relief ministries. Southern Baptists have 65,000 trained volunteers – including chaplains – and 1,550 mobile units for feeding, chainsaw, mud-out, command, communication, child care, shower, laundry, water purification, repair/rebuild and power generation.
To learn more about how you can help, please contact the Baptist convention in your state or go to donations.namb.net/dr-donations. For phone donations, call 1-866-407-NAMB (6262) or mail checks to NAMB, P.O. Box 116543, Atlanta, GA 30368-6543. Designate checks for “Disaster Relief.”
Church leaders can explore how Send Relief comes alongside churches and state conventions to aid in times of disaster and meet other needs for relief across North America at namb.net/sendrelief.