Story and photos by Jean Bihn

DR1Less than 24 hours after receiving a call from the Red Cross, volunteers from Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief served a hot meal to dozens of evacuees from Yarnell at Yavapai College in Prescott. Situated a little more than an hour’s drive northwest of Sun City, the tiny town was threatened by a wildfire that eventually burned more than 4,000 acres.

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organizations across the nation have memorandums of understanding with the Red Cross, which often pays for the food Southern Baptist volunteers prepare and serve. At other times, Salvation Army organizations step in with funds.

Patty Kirchner, Arizona Disaster Relief state feeding unit manager, said about 175 meals were served to evacuees June 9-11.

Kirchner said after sending out a mass email to volunteers to put a team together, food must be purchased or ordered, depending on the number of people anticipated.

“Are we expecting 50 or are we expecting 400?” she said. “During the Yarnell fire three years ago, Shamrock Foods delivered a refrigerated trailer with our provisions. Shamrock Foods has been really good to us.”

Kirchner became involved in Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief in 2008, shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

“We want to serve the Lord,” she said. “And … we get a chance to meet those we serve in a critical time of their lives.”

Arizona’s extreme heat means Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief crews could be busy this summer. As the Yarnell fire approached containment, on June 15, a new wildfire broke out south of Pinetop-Lakeside and Show Low in the White Mountains.

“If evacuees come from Show Low and more populated areas, it’s likely we’ll be called out,” Kirchner said.