Faith-Based Disaster Relief


BOB ABERNETHY, host: As severe flooding crippled parts of the East Coast this week, faith groups were among those who quickly mobilized to help those hurt by Hurricane Irene. The storm affected 13 states, killing more than 40 people and causing widespread power outages that continued throughout the week. Experts estimate the hurricane left at least $7 billion worth of damage, caused mostly by the deadly floods in New England, New York, and New Jersey. In Vermont, many towns were completely surrounded by water, and aid groups had to airlift supplies to the isolated residents. North Carolina also suffered millions of dollars worth of damage, and in Virginia, at one point more than one million people were without electricity. Moderate flooding and downed trees also left many in that state stranded.

One of the major emergency relief efforts in the country has been organized by the Southern Baptist Convention. As of last year, the SBC had trained more than 82,000 disaster relief volunteers all over the country. We caught up with an SBC chain-saw crew near Richmond, Virginia, cutting up two huge trees Irene had taken down. Most of the men and women are retirees over 60 from SBC churches all around Virginia. They do the work free of charge. Meanwhile, also in Richmond, another SBC crew prepared up to 6000 meals a day—frozen chili, rice, and peaches supplied by the Red Cross and packed by the SBC in insulated boxes, each with 200 servings. Red Cross drivers haul the boxes away to schools and community centers. SBC crews from around the country also went to New York 10 years to feed Ground Zero rescue workers. SBC relief crews partner not only with the Red Cross and the Salvation Army but also with local government and FEMA, the federal disaster relief agency—church and state working together, no questions asked.