TX Baptists help thousands

Show up at any Texas disaste site, and your chances of running into Texas Baptist Men are high.

BY HEATHER MOYER | SAN ANTONIO, Texas | June 23, 2004

"We're now working on a communications unit."

—Harrell Teague

Show up at any Texas disaster relief site within 24 hours of the disaster, and your chances of running into the Texas Baptist Men are very high.

The relief teams respond to any disaster across the huge state whenever they're needed. With their army of volunteers and mobile relief trailers, the Texas Baptist Men respond immediately.

"We're most known for our feeding units," said Harrell Teague of San Antonio Baptist Association Disaster Relief Ministries - part of Texas Baptist Men (TBM). "With all 11 of our feeding units together, we can provide 150,000 meals per day."

The group's relief trailers, including the feeding units, provide them with the supplies to help in many different ways.

The "Clean Out" units help TBM volunteers remove mud from flooded homes. "Those trailers can help us clean out three to five homes at a time," said Teague. "Inside the trailer there is enough equipment to move out mud up to eight feet deep."

The other trailers TBM has ready to go are water purification units, childcare units, shower units, and chainsaw units. And they're working on increasing the length of that list.

"We're now working on a communications unit," explained Teague. "In every disaster, phone lines jam, cell phones don't always work, and so on. Our communications unit would help us talk to our home offices and allow some disaster survivors to talk to their families and let them know they're okay.

"Communication in disasters is chaotic, and this will definitely help."

Not that the teams have let that hinder their mission one bit. They've responded to hundreds of disasters across the state - and the world - since the group started in 1967. In the past few years, TBM responded to flooding around San Antonio in 2002, Hurricane Claudette's destruction in Port Lavaca and Bay City in 2003, and more. Their most recent responses have led them to the Ft. Worth and Dallas areas in mid-June to help flood survivors.

Their out-of-state relief work has taken them all over the U.S. and the world. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, TBM took a shower unit to Ground Zero so that relief workers combing the World Trade Center site could shower and have their clothes washed at the end of their shifts.

In April, TBM volunteers spent four weeks in Piedras Negras, Mexico, responding to deadly floods that wiped out entire neighborhoods. "It was unbelievable," said Teague. "I'd never seen destruction like that before. All of our veteran volunteers said that as well."

During the weeks spent in the border town, TBM cleaned out more than 150 homes, prepared more than 55,000 meals, and purified water for residents.

Another new project TBM is working on is crisis counseling, which they offered while in Piedras Negras. "We took along four students from the local Hispanic seminary here, and they were invaluable," Teague said. "They built up great trust, offered counseling, and helped disseminate information to the communities about what the government was doing. That is crucial during disasters."

Never at a loss for new ideas that could benefit disaster survivors, two more new plans are keeping TBM very busy. First, organizing a security team for disaster sites is very important.

"When we go into an area, we set up a camp with feeding units and all the other different units. This equipment is vulnerable, so security steps in to guard it and have a visible presence," Teague explained.

The major step TBM wants to take is building a disaster relief warehouse in San Antonio. "We've already had the land donated to us, now we just need the funds to build," Teague said, adding that because of the lack of warehouse space, he's had to turn down a few large donations of bottled water several times. "We didn't have anywhere to store it."

Centralizing all the relief units is also crucial. Right now, the various relief trailers are stored around the state wherever they can find a place with enough space. That distance makes preparing and dispatching the trailers more challenging.

"This (warehouse) would make us ready at all times," said Steve Payne, co-director of the San Antonio Baptist Associations Disaster Relief Ministries. "We have all the disaster resources, we just need an easier way to distribute them. With a warehouse, all the units would be in one place and ready to go."

Payne added that this warehouse would be open to other disaster relief organizations. "We want to support the many ministries around here," said Payne.

"The sky's the limit on this, and it's our dream to make it happen."

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Related Links:

Texas Baptist Men Web site


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