Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers from Oklahoma are helping victims of wildfires that have ravaged portions of Colorado.
Sam Porter, director of disaster relief for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said relief efforts never fail to draw volunteers from across the state, perhaps because Oklahomans know the devastation wrought by disasters all too well.
“Oklahomans understand that more than anyone,” Porter said.
“We have more federally declared disasters than any other state, with the tornadoes, the floods, the fires and ice storms.”
Porter alluded to a recent Oklahoma Climatological Survey reported that said Oklahoma ranks first in the number of Federal Emergency Management Agency Major Disaster declarations since 2000. Oklahoma, according to the survey's FEMA data, topped a state-by-state list with 33 major disaster declarations from 2000-2012.
Porter said volunteers from First Baptist Church of Chandler traveled to Colorado for a mission trip that began before the fires. He said once the fires started, church members sprang into action with the Oklahoma Baptists' disaster relief laundry unit.
Porter said the unit, built after Hurricane Katrina, has five washers and six dryers in which volunteers can do between 30 and 40 loads of laundry per day for disaster victims. He said victims staying in shelters often have few clothing items and they appreciate having their clothes washed. He said the laundry unit was going to be closed on Wednesday, but more fires flared up because of high winds, resulting in more evacuations.
Porter said he may need to send a large feeding unit and a shower trailer to Colorado because of the influx of evacuees from the Colorado Springs area on Wednesday.
He said about 40 volunteers per week man the feeding unit, which allows volunteers to cook about 25,000 meals a day.
He said “ash out” volunteer teams will be sent to Colorado and New Mexico after the fires are extinguished. He said the teams help people who are either underinsured or uninsured as they sort through their burned homes for mementos and other treasured items. He said the teams then help families clear debris from the burned-out residential lots. He said cities routinely charge residents for this service and families seem to appreciate the Baptist volunteers who do the work for free.
He said Oklahoma Baptist ash out teams, along with Southern Baptists from other states, helped remove debris from lots in the aftermath of wildfires in Bastrop, Texas, near Austin last year.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Anthony Jordan, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, said disaster relief is one of the things Oklahoma Southern Baptists are known for. He said most of the meals cooked at Red Cross disaster shelters are cooked by Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Teams, which include Oklahomans.
He said the Oklahoma Baptist convention sends a portion of state mission offerings from Baptist congregations to the Southern Baptist Convention for the convention's disaster relief efforts. Jordan said he sent out a special request for donations last year when coffers were low and received $300,000 in special offerings.
Porter said disaster relief volunteers are Baptists who wish to help others in their times of distress.
“Everyone, deep inside, wants to help people when they can. It's a God-given drive,” he said.
How to help
Send Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief to: Oklahoma Baptist Disaster Relief, 3800 N May, Oklahoma City OK 73112; or go online to www.bgco.org.