By Irene A. Harkleroad
A total of 60 Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers comprising five teams served in Pasadena and Victoria, Texas, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Disaster Relief feeding unit, mud out team (flood recovery for this event), and chainsaw team members began responding to the Houston, Texas, callout on Sept. 4.
In addition to the five teams, Laveen Baptist Church sent a team of 16, including youth. Although the flood recovery effort officially ended Oct. 15, Cross Church (formerly Palm Vista Baptist Church) was able to send a team of 10 to work with a church in Beaumont, Texas.
Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers are disaster-relief trained but many SUVs (spontaneous untrained volunteers) also responded to the callout. They were backgroundchecked and then trained on site.
“Every volunteer on this deployment was willing to do whatever was needed,” said Patty Kirchner, Arizona Disaster Relief feeding unit manager. “Most Arizona Disaster Relief workers are cross-trained. Those who weren’t received on-the-job training.”
Arizona’s chainsaw team removed trees from homes and businesses and cleared streets alongside other teams in Victoria.
Shower and laundry unit volunteers worked to clean and disinfect stalls after each shower and washed countless loads of mold-contaminated clothing.
Feeding unit workers prepared hearty breakfasts, lunch items for sack lunches and nourishing dinners. They served 3,000 meals in six weeks, including meals for evacuees in a local hotel.
Flood recovery volunteers from Arizona, Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas worked together to recover 184 homes.
“Flood recovery is not pretty work,” Kirchner said. “It stinks, it’s filthy, it’s physically demanding and temperature and humidity kept workers constantly wet. Many homeowners worked side-by-side with teams cutting out drywall; emptying and removing cabinets; pulling up soaked, moldy carpets and floors; removing appliances; and dragging it all to the curb.”
The biggest issue is mold. Anything that floodwater touched was contaminated.
“If a home was closed up for two or three weeks, everything had to go,” Kirchner said. “The extent of recovery depended on what the homeowners were able to do before teams arrived. Huge piles of peoples’ lives lined the sidewalks.”
Assessments were funneled to the Incident Command Center manned by Arkansas Disaster Relief, prioritized (the disabled, elderly, single moms, first responders, people who had no family to help), and assigned in coordination with Arizona Disaster Relief blue hats (team leaders).
Although a number of Arizona Disaster Relief volunteers are trained as chaplains, other team members also connected with homeowners in the midst of grief and loss, offering prayers and presenting a Bible signed by the team members when the job was completed.
“I am so proud of our AZSBC family for the way that they have given to make sure we have what we need to do this job,” Kirchner said. “People were so grateful!”
Between Aug. 25 and Sept. 30, Arizona Southern Baptists gave $157,710.24 to Arizona Disaster Relief.
Texas was not the only recipient of aid from Arizona Southern Baptists.
First Southern Baptist Church, Avondale, sent a shipping container full of roofing supplies, hundreds of five-gallon family food buckets, solar lanterns and additional supplies to Deliverance Baptist Church in Roseau, the capital of Dominica, following Hurricane Maria. The Avondale church sends a team there each January to build homes. They are already collecting items and funds to send a second container in November for the January trip, when they plan to repair and replace roofs.
Opportunities to serve with Arizona Disaster Relief will continue. Texas Baptist Men will direct a rebuild effort along the Texas Gulf Coast over the next year and a half. As of mid-October, Arizona Disaster Relief was also on standby to serve in ash-out following the fires in California and in Dominica following the hurricane there.
Anyone interested in participating in the rebuild in Texas, which starts in November, or other upcoming opportunities may contact Sandy De Jesus at the AZSBC office, firstname.lastname@example.org or 480-945-0880. Go to http://azsbc.org/disaster-relief/ to keep abreast of training opportunities or to give to Arizona Disaster Relief.