By Irene A. Harkleroad

In spite of a stay-at-home order for part of the year, Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has stayed active in 2020.

About 80 new and former Disaster Relief volunteers were trained at Gateway Fellowship Church in Gilbert Feb. 28-29.

Classes included Involving Southern Baptists in Disaster Relief,  Mud Out/Ash Out, Chainsaw, Feeding Unit, Shower Unit, Driver Training, Blue Hat (leader) Training, AED (automated external defibrillator) Training for Blue Hats and a Chaplaincy Refresher course. Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief honored Ernie Domgaard for his service with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Volunteers from the feeding team prepared and served dinner Friday night, as well as lunch on Saturday.

After many years of service, Mitch McDonald retired as Arizona Disaster Relief director on March 17. Patty Kirchner is serving as interim director.

“We’re going to miss Mitch, his expertise, his enthusiasm and his heart,” Kirchner said.

Some of those trained in February have already been deployed, Kirchner said. Arizona Southern Baptist Disaster Relief workers served at the annual Palo Verde Reception and Care Center exercise with Maricopa County Emergency Management and at the Arizona State Emergency Operations Center.

“There’s a lot going on,” she said. “It’s different from the usual work we do. Disaster Relief volunteers are serving at food banks throughout the Arizona. Several served at Tucson food banks until the National Guard was mobilized there. More are currently serving in Yuma, where additional help is needed.”

There is a renewed interest in Disaster Relief work in Yuma, Kirchner said.

“Augie Clarkson, pastor at Oasis Church, is our blue hat in Yuma and has been able to train additional volunteers,” she said. “It really is a blessing for us there. We have about 45 new volunteers in Yuma.”

In addition, Arizona Disaster Relief’s shower unit is on site at a homeless shelter in Yuma, providing showers for women and children. It is manned by Disaster Relief volunteers three hours each night. Extra measures are being taken to keep everything sanitized, Kirchner said.

“We have one volunteer (with others on the list) serving Pinal County Emergency Management by helping sort, box and distribute personal protective pquipment (PPE) throughout Pinal County,” she said.

Working with Maricopa County Emergency Management, the Arizona Disaster Relief feeding team began providing three meals a day for a homeless shelter in Scottsdale April 20 in what is expected to be at least a three-week assignment. Three or four volunteers each day are working in the Disaster Relief event trailer, which is parked at First Southern Baptist Church, Scottsdale, and also using the church’s kitchen.