An Oklahoma Baptist disaster relief leader said one city has shown the state's volunteers “Southern hospitality” — though the city is in New Jersey.
Monday, members of the Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief team were honored for coming to the aid of Hurricane Sandy victims in Middletown, N.J.
Middletown Mayor Anthony P. Fiore and the Middletown Township Committee presented volunteers representing the disaster relief team and the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma a proclamation honoring the team's service to the area.
The presentation was held at the Middletown Town Hall and attended by several members of the New Monmouth Baptist Church, which hosted the Oklahoma Baptists.
“Thank you for bringing warm smiles, hot meals, and enduring friendships at a time when we needed it most,” the proclamation stated.
Sam Porter, director of Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, said he was proud of every volunteer who served in Middletown and areas on the New Jersey coast. He said Middletown residents — including Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts — were very appreciative of the volunteers' efforts.
“I can tell you I've done between 90 and 100 disasters, literally all over the United States and the world, and we've really never been in a community that expressed appreciation like the city of Middletown,” Porter said Monday.
“They were the best at Southern hospitality. They just could not say ‘thank you' enough.”
The disaster relief team's kitchen, which has a capacity for turning out 35,000 meals a day, has served 64,535 meals since it began operating in Middletown Nov. 5.
On Nov. 19, the team prepared 6,000 meals for American Red Cross emergency response vehicles to deliver into the community.
Porter said about 100 Oklahoma Baptist volunteers served in New Jersey, and most members of the group were expected to return home on Monday. He said about a dozen volunteers are still in New Jersey helping with flood recovery efforts.
Porter said several Oklahoma Baptist volunteer teams of about 20 people will be rotated in and out of the storm-ravaged New Jersey until January.
In addition to the gratitude expressed by Middletown residents, Porter said he loved the ecumenical cooperation. He said the Oklahoma volunteers ate and slept at New Monmouth Baptist Church but were allowed to place their portable kitchen — which covers nearly an acre — on the property of a Catholic church across the street.
In the four days before the American Red Cross arrived to deliver the meals cooked by Baptist volunteers, Porter said, the Middletown Ministerial Alliance helped provide vans from the city's various churches so food could be distributed that way.