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Baptist association volunteers make Florida trek for hurricanes

Thomson area residents once again put their daily lives on hold and responded to disaster in Florida.

Volunteers headed out last weekend to help with cleanup efforts in Florida after Hurricane Frances hit the state, said Bruce Poss, associate pastor of Marshall Baptist Church who is unit director for Georgia Baptist's Relief Unit 2F.

Area volunteers had just returned from Florida after helping with disaster relief when Hurricane Charley rolled through that state Aug. 13.

As part of that effort, 37 volunteers working in three different waves joined aid workers in the town of Wauchula in southern Florida.

"They did an excellent job working in a lot of heat," said Rev. Poss, noting the volunteers slept on cots on the floor and often started work at 5 a.m.

The volunteers, who provided hot meals using mobile kitchens while electricity was still out, provided a much needed and appreciated service, said Florida resident Mendie Hughes who helped clear debris from the streets of Wauchula.

"After hauling limbs and branches and tree trunks from the street all morning, it was a beautiful thing to see the volunteers (from Georgia) serving us a hot meal from those red containers," she said in an interview posted on the North American Mission Board Web site of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For local volunteer Helen Jones, the Florida disaster was a way to give back some of the blessings she has enjoyed.

"I feel I'm so fortunate the Lord has blessed us. When others need it, you should go and do," said Ms. Jones, who has been helping with disaster relief since 1994.

"It's the command the Lord gives you -- to go and help others," said Ms. Jones, who was part of the volunteer team along with her husband Willard.

The Zimmermans are also regular volunteers, and have been on a number of missions in the past 15 years. It's rewarding when people are so appreciative of their efforts, Shirley Zimmerman said.

"One man had been waiting all day for a hot meal," said Mrs. Zimmerman who traveled more than 500 miles one way to help.

Larry Zimmerman enjoyed seeing their efforts bring a smile to the face of those "who didn't have a lot to smile about."

He was especially gratified to see children starting to once again enjoy the playground equipment at a nearby church.

"It brought joy to the heart that they could have fun and be kids among all that devastation," he said.

The local volunteers were among 3,500 Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers from across the nation who prepared more than 800,000 meals during Hurricane Charley cleanup, according to the Mission Board Web site.

Volunteers receive special training before entering disaster areas to help with chores such as manning mobile kitchens, working on chainsaw crews, setting up shower units, laundry facilities and helping with child care.

The Southern Baptist Convention is a major disaster relief organization, third in the nation behind the Red Cross and Salvation Army.

Though the effort is huge, the focus is simple:

"You see people in need and respond," Ms. Jones said.

Web posted on Thursday, September 9, 2004

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Temperature:53° F
Wind:from the W at 5 MPH
Visibility:10 miles
Dew Point:53° F
Updated: 04-Nov-2010 10:01


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