Tommy Story is busy stirring the large vat of fragrant meat in the outdoor kitchen, the steam rising and wafting through his white beard.
The Gaston, Ky., resident is with the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Team working with American Red Cross volunteers to cook and serve hot meals for those recovering from the West Virginia flash floods.
“For me it’s a true joy to be able to help out those in need. It’s a true labor of love,” said Tommy, part of the group operating the field kitchen outside the First Baptist Church of Fairlea, one of three kitchens the church group is operating.
As Tommy stirs, other volunteers are busy opening numerous cans of vegetables to start fixing the side dishes. It’s like watching a carefully timed dance, with volunteers quickly pivoting to avoid bumping each other with hot food.
The Southern Baptists have been doing this for about 60 years and for much of that time they’ve partnered with the Red Cross to provide needed nourishment for those recovering from a variety of disasters.
Karen Smith, of Shepherdsville, Ky., who oversees the Fairlea kitchen, says it’s really a time-tested partnership for both organizations.
“We couldn’t do what we do without the Red Cross and the Red Cross couldn’t do what it does without us,” she said. “We’re all working for the same end and that is to help the people who are hurting.”
The Red Cross purchases the food; the Southern Baptists cook it and put it in insulated containers which are loaded into a waiting fleet of Red Cross emergency response vehicles, or ERVs, for delivery where needed.
Among those rushing around is Joby Barrow, of La Center, Ky., making sure the right meals get to the right ERVs.
"We do this because we’re supposed to help our neighbors and that’s more than the people next door,” she said. “We’re all in this to do what we can. We all do what we can do best.”
She watches as the forklift driver eases the pallet of food containers to the back of an ERV and again checks to make sure all is as should be.
With the food loaded, the ERV drives off and she waves before hurrying back to get ready for the next load.