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Celebrating a Birthday by Helping Others

Red Cross volunteers unload Emergency Response Vehicle
“I don’t mind being away on my birthday and my grandson’s birthday because this is what I need to be doing"

Typically on birthdays, people surround themselves with loved ones to celebrate their special day, and that’s exactly what one Southern Baptist Convention volunteer, Mike Puryear, did on June 2nd in Moore, Oklahoma.

Not only was it his birthday, but it was also his grandson’s birthday in Tennessee. “I don’t mind being away on my birthday and my grandson’s birthday because this is what I need to be doing right now and my family knows that,” said Puryear. “This is how I can make a difference.”

On his birthday, Puryear joined hundreds of other Southern Baptist and American Red Cross volunteers to make sure that Oklahomans had hot meals and snacks to eat as the picked up the pieces of what was left of their homes and communities.

Puryear is a long-time Southern Baptist volunteer and has worked on several large disaster relief operations alongside the Red Cross. While in Oklahoma, Puryear’s main role is to help cook thousands of meals each day at one of the joint Red Cross and Southern Baptist kitchens.

“We’re working with the Red Cross to serve the community because that’s what we do and that’s who we are,” said Puryear.

This partnership involves several steps. First, the Red Cross purchases and delivers food to mobile kitchen sites. After the food is cooked by the Southern Baptist, Red Cross volunteers load the meals on mobile feeding trucks and deliver them to residents in highly affected communities. This process typically happens twice a day on large disaster relief operations.

Since tornadoes began hitting Oklahoma two weeks ago, Red Cross volunteers, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist, have distributed over 200,000 meals and snacks across Oklahoma.

Collaborating with community and government partners is an important part of responding and recovering after a disaster. Recovering from a disaster is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and that’s definitely the case right now in Oklahoma, where the Red Cross and its partners will be working for weeks and months to come.