Judy Gray and her husband Larry worked side-by-side for 15 years as part of the Southern Baptist Convention disaster relief kitchen crew from Arkansas, preparing hot meals for American Red Cross volunteers to deliver to those in need during disasters.
It’s a time Judy fondly recalls today as she works with the Southern Baptist mobile kitchen crew in Alexandria, La., to prepare meals for those affected by widespread flooding in the state.
But for the first time, she’s doing it without her husband of 48 years at her side.
Larry passed away in January 2015 after extended illnesses, but Judy said he wanted her to continue what they had been doing for so long – helping those in need.
“It’s something that was our answer to God’s calling because we saw the need,” Judy said. “This was ours, but it’s mine now because he wanted me to continue.”
Judy, who is from Judsonia, Arkansas, is part of the Red River Baptist Association feeding team of some 15 people who came to Louisiana to help feed people affected by flooding. Southern Baptist teams and churches are supporting kitchen operations in central, northeast, southwest and southeast Louisiana.
Each day, they cook hundreds of hot lunch and dinner meals to be loaded onto Red Cross emergency response vehicles and delivered into neighborhoods where residents are cleaning up and beginning their recovery. In some locations, water remains in homes or prevents access to residential areas.
Supervisor Harold Johnson said the kitchen in Central Louisiana is capable of cooking up to 6,000 lunches and 6,000 dinners each day, but he doesn’t believe it will reach anywhere near that capacity this time.
The American Red Cross has partnered with the First Baptist Church in Sterlington, LA to provide hot meals to flood victims in West Monroe.
Tom Whitaker, who is leading meal preparation at First Baptist Church in Sterlington, La., said that his team prepared about 1,800 hot dinners their first evening.
"They have a great spirit," says American Red Cross volunteer Rev. Arthur Turner, who has worked with the Southern Baptist Church on previous Red Cross disaster deployments in Oklahoma and South Carolina. "They prepare great meals for the people. I thank them for their time and hard work."
When a disaster strikes, the kitchen team rolls into the area with trailers equipped with ovens, large kettles and all the implements needed to prepare thousands of meals. The Red Cross purchases bulk food for the Southern Baptist kitchen teams to turn into steaming hot meals for Red Cross disaster workers to deliver. The kitchen team keeps a close watch on food preparation, following strict sanitation and health requirements, and cleaning all of the equipment after each use.
Johnson said the partnership with the Red Cross has been in place for 40 years or more.
“It’s a good partnership. We’re each doing what we do best to help those in need,” Johnson said.
In a large disaster like the Louisiana flooding, it takes teamwork to meet the many needs that arise in communities. The Red Cross works closely with partners like the Southern Baptist Convention and the entire response community -- federal, state, county and local agencies; other nonprofits; churches; area businesses and more.
RED CROSS RESPONSE
Since the flooding began in Louisiana, the Red Cross has worked with community partners to serve nearly 157,000 meals and snacks; hand out more than 36,900 clean-up kits, comfort kits and supplies such as shovels, rakes and gloves; and provided nearly 2,700 overnight stays in 30 shelters.
With storms forecasted today, the Red Cross team continues to monitor the situation with state and local officials to ensure people get the help they need.
Download the free Red Cross Emergency App to have safety information and shelter locations available on your mobile device. The Emergency App features emergency weather alerts to help keep the user safe, and provides information about what to do in during and after floods and storms as well as the locations of open shelters.
The following Red Cross managed or supported shelters were open overnight with about 135 residents:
• Saul Adler Community Center – 3900 Westminster Ave., Monroe, LA 71201
• Rayville Civic Center – 706 N. Louisa St., Rayville, LA 71269
• National Guard Armory – 746 E. Railwood Ave., Independence, LA 70466
A community-run shelter is open:
• Caldwell Parish Community Center – 6539 Highway 165 South, Duty Ferry, LA 71418
HOW TO HELP People in Louisiana need your support today. Help by making a gift to Louisiana Floods. Your donation enables the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from these disasters. Call toll free via 855-489-2529, or mail a donation with “Louisiana Floods” in the memo line to your local Red Cross or: American Red Cross of Louisiana, Attention: Helene Vance, 2640 Canal St., New Orleans, LA 70119.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a not-for-profit organization that depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit redcross.org or cruzrojaamericana.org, or visit us on Twitter at @RedCross.