By Kay Harms
Photos by N. John Keller

Ninety-four people received training at the Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief training, held March 2-3 at Gateway Fellowship in Gilbert. Training was provided in driving, chainsaw, feeding, shower/laundry unit and debris removal.

Included in 94 who received training were 30 new trainees.

“We’re especially excited that 19 of the 94 trainees were 60 and under, and 10 of them were under 50 years of age,” said Patty Kirchner, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief feeding unit manager. “Most of these younger trainees were ones being trained for the first time. We are excited to have some younger volunteers.”

According to Kirchner, Arizona Disaster Relief has been very busy in recent months, sending units to offer assistance in the Goodwin fire in Prescott, search and rescue in a Payson flood and various services in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In fact, rebuilding efforts continue following that hurricane and flood. Additionally, the feeding units served at four events in March, mostly working with various Maricopa County emergency and health units.

Currently Arizona Disaster Relief is preparing to participate in and host the 2018 National Mass Care Exercise to be held in Phoenix this year, May 21-24.

“The NMCE is an annual exercise hosted by different states each year, working around a disaster scenario created for us all to handle together,” explained Kirchner. “The goal is to bring national, state, county and local jurisdictions and volunteer organizations together to work through these exercises so that when something catastrophic does happen we are all on the same page. This makes things go a lot smoother in future disaster events.”

According to Kirchner, previous NMCE events significantly helped prepare Arizona Disaster Relief and other emergency relief workers and volunteer groups for Hurricane Harvey. In addition to participating in the NMCE, Arizona Disaster Relief will be feeding all of the participants, probably 260 participants for most meals, but up to 800 on one day of the event.

Kirchner expressed the team’s appreciation for Arizona Southern Baptists’ support of Disaster Relief and the new trainees they’ve received. But she also emphasized the constant need and desire for new volunteers. Inquiries should be directed to Sandy De Jesus at sandy@azsbc.org.