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Posted May 15, 2011 by The Underground Staff in
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Churches collaborate for cleanup, meals and disaster relief in Alabama

Churches are playing a key role in sending aid and relief to Alabama after a series of deadly tornadoes that hit the south last month.

Julie Wright, who is charged with operations for Birmingham’s Salvation Army, told The Birmingham news that various church groups have lent much-needed aid and relief in coordination with them.

Wright told The Birmingham News that among the church groups that have lent assistance are Gardendale First Baptist, Bethel Baptist, Cottage Hill Baptist Church and Garywood Assembly of God, to name a few.

Wright said to The Birmingham News, “We just encourage anyone who wants to volunteer to go on our website. We’ve had people come down every day to volunteer. It’s been a tremendous response.”

Wright said they have also received aid from the Islamic Relief Agency and The Church of Latter Day Saints, The Birmingham News reported. Brian Wallace, spokesman of Salvation Army said, “They’re doing it completely selflessly.”

While the Salvation Army is the largest evangelical church-run disaster relief program worldwide, many of the largest religious relief agencies in the world have lent assistance to Alabama, including the Catholic Relief Services and the Southern Baptist Convention, The Birmingham News said.

Baptist volunteers have also traveled in crews to Alabama to sleep on the floors of Sunday Schools and stay for a week on their own expense, The Birmingham News said. Tasks they do include cleaning up debris, cutting and removing trees.

Mel Johnson, strategist of the Alabama Convention’s relief work told The Birmingham News, “It’s hot, hard work, but people do it because it’s an opportunity to bring hope.” Johnson adds that they work alongside different faith volunteers including Mormons, Catholics, Lutherans and Methodists among others.

Johnson told The Birmingham News, “[T]hey all bring certain things to the table. The community of faith is usually the first to respond. They have compassion; that’s where they live.”

Hot meals

Some 7,742 trained emergency volunteers from the Southern Baptists have also been preparing tens of thousands of hot meals daily in collaboration with the Red Cross, according to The Birmingham.

Mel Johnson, strategist of the Alabama Baptist Convention’s relief work told The Birmingham News, “We work hand in hand with the Red Cross.” They have, to date, cooked over 177,000 meals and counseled up to 5,000 people.

Baptist feeding units have been deployed to Tuscaloosa, Birmingham Fire Department’s Drills and Training West Field, and Capshaw Baptist Church in Limestone County, The Alabama Baptist reported.

Charlotte Jeffreys, who heads the 17-member group in Capshaw, told TAB that her team has served breakfast, lunch and dinner directly to 1,200 people including disaster relief chain saw teams, utility workers and the local community.

Jeffreys told TAB a lot of the food they prepare comes from the community. “The community has been so wonderful. Many businesses and schools have donated their frozen foods to [the feeding unit] before they go bad (since the community does not have electricity).”

Two weeks after the tornados hit on April 27, some 65,000 businesses and homes were still without electricity, making hot meals a near impossibility were it not for the work of volunteers.

The survivors of the storms have fortunately had access to various meals with the work of the volunteers, including chicken fajitas, dumplings, ham, cooked chicken, peas, corn, pears and desserts such as cookies, strawberry shortcake and thirst quenching tea, among others, TAB reported.