Florida Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are being deployed to West Virginia after heavy rains June 23 caused historic flooding and claimed at least 24 lives and 100 homes. State and federal officials have declared portions of the state as disaster areas.
Florida teams will join Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) leaders and volunteers who were at work within hours to aid survivors and comfort those facing the loss of family and loved ones.
According to Florida Baptist Disaster and Recovery director Delton Beall, incident management teams and damage assessors will travel to West Virginia beginning Tuesday, June 28 and arrive Wednesday. Disaster relief clean-up and recovery teams from the state will be deployed beginning Thursday and Friday.
The Florida teams will be stationed in Elkview and Clendenin, towns located northeast of Charleston along the Elk River.
“The flooding, death and destruction is such a heartbreaking event for the West Virginia people,” said Beall, who served with the West Virginia Convention of Southern Baptists prior to joining the Florida state staff. “They are such good people and have never experienced flooding to this degree before. Our prayers go out to them.”
Florida and West Virginia Baptists are engaged in a long-term state-to-state partnership.
Clean-up and recovery volunteers who are willing to respond should contact their regional leaders/blue hats to let them know of their availability, said Beall.
One of the biggest threats to homeowners after a flood is the dangerous mold that starts growing in the home. Southern Baptists have dozens of “mud-out” trailers loaded with pressure washers, disinfectant, buckets, shovels and other equipment needed to treat a home after it has been flooded. Mud, silt, damaged belongings and other debris must be removed along with any sheet rock damaged by the flooding. The process cannot start until flood waters recede and the drying-out process has begun.
Florida volunteers trained in mass feeding may be deployed in the future, Beall said. The state’s mass feeding kitchens are available as need arises.
Several state SBDR units were mobilized Saturday. The North American Mission Board’s SBDR executive director Mickey Caison reported that the coordination of aid and volunteers began before the rain stopped. NAMB coordinates and manages Southern Baptist responses to major disasters through partnerships with 42 state Baptist conventions, most of which, like Florida, have their own state Disaster Relief ministries.
Long-term recovery will follow the immediate disaster response, Caison said, noting that the incident command center, feeding and flood recovery operations for the response will be located in the Lewisburg, W.V., area.
The command center will be staffed by SBDR volunteers from West Virginia, Kentucky and the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia (SBCV). SBDR volunteers are also already responding to flooding in Virginia and Maryland.
NAMB is deploying a semi-truck with bottled water, disinfectant used to treat homes after flooding and other resources needed to support the effort. Flood buckets, filled with basic necessities for immediate flood recovery, are also on board.
The West Virginia Disaster Relief incident command and feeding unit will be housed at First Baptist Church of Fairlea in Ronceverte, W.V. The American Red Cross has requested two SBDR mobile feeding kitchens be ready for five-day deployments. An SBCV mobile kitchen will be set up at Heritage Baptist Church in Elkview, W.V. Teams were in route Saturday, June 25 to set up the mobile kitchens.
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. SBDR is one of the three largest mobilizers of trained Disaster Relief volunteers in the United States, along with the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
To donate to the Florida Baptist DR relief effort send a check to the Florida Baptist Convention, 6850 Belfort Oaks Place, Jacksonville, FL 32216. Designate “West Virginia disaster relief.” To make a donation by credit card, call 800-226-8584, att. Mike Gilley, ext. 3047 or Flor Ramirez, ext. 3100.
Barbara Denman, Florida Baptist Convention, June 27, 2016
Mike Ebert and Joe Conway contributed to this article.