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TN volunteers work nonstop

Sunday was not a day of rest for volunteers working here with survivors of last week's tornadoes.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | JACKSON, Tenn. | May 13, 2003

"They got the call and were here within four or five hours."

—Rev. Dr. Maurice Hollingsworth

Sunday was not a day of rest for volunteers working here with survivors of last week's tornadoes.

Stationed at the West Baptist Church of Jackson, dozens of volunteers were hard at work in two separate kitchens, preparing meals that would be delivered by American Red Cross vans not only to Jackson, but to Dyesburg, Denmark, Lexington and Ararat.

The Rev. Dr. Maurice Hollingsworth, associate pastor of the church, wasn't standing by and playing supervisor on Sunday afternoon: he was in the church kitchen, making sure an enormous batch of chicken was properly seasoned.

"Woo. It's been a busy day," he said. "Today it's just been overwhelming."

Demand for cooked meals was so high on Sunday that the mobile kitchen from Hardeman County, Tenn., was not sufficient to meet the need, Hollingsworth said. So he opened up the church kitchen, and went to work on the chicken.

The Hardeman County team, of about 30 people, showed up on Tuesday.

"They got the call and were here within four or five hours," he said. "And these guys have worked for five days with little or no break."

Since then, they have been cooking an average of 5,000 meals a day.

"That's a lot of chicken," Hollingsworth said.

In addition to the massive feeding operation, Hollingsworth's church is also serving as one of three Red Cross emergency shelters here. This shelter has held more than 200 people on its busiest night.

Edward Nanney was one of the volunteers from here in Jackson. Nanney, who has lived in Jackson for 31 years, has volunteered with the Southern Baptists for the last seven years.

The worst disaster Nanney has seen was the 1999 tornado in Oklahoma City. The tornado here was not as devastating as that, but Jackson has never seen the kind of damage that happened early in the morning on May 5.

Help, however, has been pouring from all over the south, Nanney said, and many of these volunteers are out in the field, working in chainsaw crews in Jackson and surrounding towns.

"We had them from Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Georgia, Arkansas...and I'm not sure about Florida," he said. "And we also had some local ones."

Nanney is working with the kitchen crew, and he said the work goes on night and day.

"It's a round-the-clock operation if you want to feed that many people," he said.

Charles Manley is the director of the Hardeman County Baptist Feeding Unit, founded 14 years ago and the oldest of its kind in Tennessee.

The unit has 75 trained workers, Manley said, and is supported by 33 churches. It started out 14 years ago with $1,200 thrown down by a handful of volunteers.

"It's just grown tremendously since then," he said. "We never had any problem with money. The Lord has provided with that."

Manley is proud of his unit and the huge quantity of food it's capable of preparing on short notice.

"I feel like we can do just about anything they tell us to do. I may be bragging, but 5,000 meals a day is a lot for a unit of our size," he said. "But I've got a lot of dedicated folks that do what needs to be done. We just look at it as a very needed ministry."

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