Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer recognized for lifetime of service

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Pictured above: Dusty Gregory (right) accepts the Robert E. Dixon Award for a lifetime of service on behalf of his mother, Linda Gregory, for her commitment as a Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer. Linda Gregory passed away May 1, 2023. Dusty Gregory is joined by Coy Webb (left), Send Relief crisis response director, and David Coggins (center), Florida Baptist Disaster Relief director.

Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer Linda Gregory was recognized posthumously in January 2024 with the Robert E. Dixon Award for a lifetime of service.

Linda Gregory served as a Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer and leader for many years. Through her role as a Disaster Relief volunteer, she “found the niche where she could have the greatest impact on the kingdom of God by showing and sharing Jesus Christ with so many,” said her son Dusty Gregory.

The award was presented to Linda Gregory’s son, Dusty Gregory, at the annual Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Roundtable, held at Ogletown Baptist Church in Newark, Delaware, and attended by more than 200 Disaster Relief leaders and volunteers from 38 of 42 Southern Baptist state conventions across the nation.

Linda Gregory, who passed away May 1, 2023, and her son first became involved in Disaster Relief in 2009 after hurricanes in Central Florida left several large trees downed in her yard, followed by weeks of no power to her home.

Seeing the impact and opportunities for Disaster Relief, the two talked with then-Florida Baptist Disaster Relief director Fritz Wilson and soon found themselves, untrained and without a team, driving to Kentucky to help homeowners recover from an ice storm. There, they connected with a Florida Baptist Disaster Relief team, and Dusty Gregory went to work with his chainsaw on downed trees while Linda Gregory dragged branches and raked fallen debris.

After that initial venture into Disaster Relief, the two attended training and became credentialed as volunteers.

Linda Gregory, retired, then found her niche working as a volunteer with the Disaster Relief office staff in Jacksonville, a role she held for about 10 years.

“My mother doesn’t do anything halfway, so pretty quickly she became almost like a paid staff member because she was there so often,” recalls Dusty Gregory, a member of San Jose Baptist Church in Jacksonville.

Next, Linda Gregory, who was a member of North Jax Baptist Church at the time of her death, began serving as state Disaster Relief administrative coordinator, another role she held for many years. That administrative role is critical “to help volunteers be effective in our mission,” said David Coggins, Florida Baptist Disaster Relief director.

“Linda was a great leader and hard worker. She took on more than her share of the load,” said Cathy Edwards, who serves as a volunteer on the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief administrative team.

Edwards added that as Disaster Relief volunteers serve together in challenging and heartbreaking circumstances, they become friends. She considered Linda Gregory to be a dear friend. “We worked together and played together,” she said.

I know my mother was so committed to Disaster Relief because she finally found the niche where she could have the greatest impact on the kingdom of God by showing and sharing Jesus Christ with so many.

Dusty Gregory son of Linda Gregory, who received the Robert E. Dixon Award for a lifetime of service, January 2024

Linda Gregory also served on several Disaster Relief committees nationally and was used in other state responses as part of an IMT (Incident Management Team) to help lead responses.

Additionally, Linda Gregory and her son served on international Disaster Relief teams, traveling together to the Cayman Islands and Haiti to serve people in need.

“Linda was extremely compassionate and caring for others. She was well loved in Florida Baptist life and especially in Florida and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministries,” said Coggins.

It didn’t take long for serving in Disaster Relief to become a family affair for the Gregorys. Gene Gregory, also Linda Gregory’s son, serves as pastor at River of Life Church of Volusia and is a trained Disaster Relief volunteer. Dusty Gregory’s wife and all three of his children are trained in Disaster Relief.

As Disaster Relief volunteers serve together in challenging and heartbreaking circumstances, they become friends. Here, Linda Gregory (second from left) is shown with Disaster Relief friends (from left): Terry Davis, Hillcrest Baptist Church, Pensacola; (Linda Gregory); Vi Norris, Madison Street Baptist Church, Starke; Kathy Willis, North Oak Baptist Church, Citrus Springs; and Cathy Edwards, Airline Baptist Church, Mayo.

Accepting the award on his mother’s behalf, Dusty Gregory said, was encouraging to him and his family because “it reminds us how much my mother meant to the Florida Baptist Disaster Relief program.” While in Delaware, Dusty Gregory spoke with many people, some he knew and others he didn’t, who spoke of their relationship with and admiration for his mother.

“I know my mother was so committed to Disaster Relief because she finally found the niche where she could have the greatest impact on the kingdom of God by showing and sharing Jesus Christ with so many,” said Dusty Gregory, who now serves as Disaster Relief clean-up and recovery coordinator for Region 3 in Florida.

The award was named in memory of Robert “Bob” Dixon, who pioneered Southern Baptist Disaster Relief ministry more than 50 years ago—seeing Disaster Relief deployments as “invitations from the Father.” Dixon died May 10, 2018, at age 90.

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