The American Red Cross and Southern Baptist Convention are working together on an extensive operation to make sure people in New York and New Jersey have food to eat after Superstorm Sandy knocked out power and devastated neighborhoods.
The two organizations partner when disaster strikes to prepare meals and distribute them to those in need. The Southern Baptist Convention deploys volunteers and mobile kitchens capable of making thousands of meals a day. The Red Cross works with them, loading the meals onto emergency vehicles to hand out in the affected neighborhoods. Since Sandy’s onslaught on the East Coast began, the two organizations have served more than 3.7 million meals and snacks.
At a food preparation site in Deer Park on Long Island, Mitch Henry is a man on a mission. As the Red Cross Mass Care Feeding manager, Henry coordinates and directs the activity of 25 Red Cross response vehicles that hand out almost 50,000 hot meals each day throughout an area stretching 70 miles in all directions.
Using an outdoor picnic table as his desk, he never seems distracted by the steady stream of phone calls. One gets the impression that some important issue has been settled, another piece of the puzzle put in place after each call.
“The truth is, whatever success I have here, I owe it all to Bob Roberts,” Henry explained, nodding to the manager in charge of the Southern Baptist Convention mobile kitchens that came from Arkansas, New York, and Mississippi.
A total of 60 Southern Baptist volunteer cooks came from these three states. Between them and the huge mobile kitchens there is the capability to prepare tens of thousands of meals each day for Red Cross distribution. When a Southern Baptist cook goes to the pantry to select the vegetable for the dinner plate, he sends a man with a forklift to bring in pallets of canned goods from the trailer of an 18-wheeler.
Eighteen volunteers from the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief unit in Wichita, Kansas, also came along to assist with sanitizing the food containers and loading the vehicles. These Southern Baptist volunteers are only a small part of the more than 750 volunteers that have been sent to partner with Red Cross provide meals throughout the entire Hurricane Sandy affected area.
“In all my years in Red Cross disaster work, I have never had such support as we have received here,” said Henry, who has deployed as a Red Cross kitchen manager 16 times since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. “The folks in this area did all the work that had to be done to set up the tents, helped organize the layout of the site, and even brought fire engines down here to light up the area so we could work late into the night.”
ENORMOUS RESPONSE The Red Cross has mobilized the full resources of the organization across the country to get help to people affected by Sandy. More than 5,700 disaster workers and hundreds of Red Cross vehicles have been mobilized to help. People have lost their homes or suffered devastating damage. Many are still without power. Organizations including the Red Cross have provided more than 127,000 shelter stays. In addition to the millions of meals served, the Red Cross has handed out more than 272,000 relief items already and provided more than 40,300 health services and emotional support contacts.
HOW TO HELP The Red Cross response to Sandy is massive and growing by the day. If someone would like to help, they can make a financial donations by visiting www.redcross.org, calling call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or texting the word REDCROSS (all one word) to 90999 to make a $10 donation