‘As long as we’re needed’: Texas Baptist Men provide support after Imelda

Published 12:16 am Tuesday, September 24, 2019

NEDERLAND — Texas Baptist Men and Red Cross are teaming up to provide support to Jefferson County residents in the wake of Tropical Storm Imelda.

The volunteer-based company out of Dallas helps communities recover from natural disasters and has set up a feeding unit where they will begin collaborating with Red Cross to distribute hot meals to families in need across Southeast Texas.

“We don’t know exactly how many meals we will be distributing,” said Gary Finley, Texas Baptist Men unit leader. “We can physically cook up to 15,000 meals a day out of this kitchen. It depends on what (Red Cross) determines the needs are. That is what we’ll cook. We’ll be out here as long as we’re needed.”

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Meals include a range from hamburgers and chicken fajitas to Salisbury steak and chicken casserole. Food distribution will begin Tuesday afternoon. The unit is not set up for a feeding line and is solely being used for distribution.

John Cox, a volunteer for Texas Baptist Men is certified in food safety training and is following the proper procedure by washing bins and trays. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

Finley, who drove from San Antonio, said he has workers helping out from all over the state.

“We’re all volunteers,” he said. “The organization maybe has two paid employees and the other several thousand are all volunteers.”

In addition to the food unit, a mud out team has also been activated to help citizens clear out their homes and prepare for reconstruction.

“We have specially trained crews that know how to go into a house completely gut it, treat it for mold, pressure wash it and get it ready to build,” Finley said. “We’ll be here for months in some form.

“We train heavily. We have crews that do all sorts of stuff from being trained with a chainsaw to remove trees off of houses to knowing how to mud out. We’ve even put temporary roofs on — it’s pretty extensive.”

All volunteers are specifically trained in their area of disaster relief and recovery.

“Everyone who works in this kitchen is food safety trained,” Finley said. “I’m actually food safety manager trained. We follow all the proper regulations. That’s what we do. We just don’t go in haphazardly and say, ‘Hey, let’s go feed some people.’ We want to do it right.”

The feeding unit, trailers, equipment and trucks are stationed at Nederland First Baptist Church.

Pastor Jason Burden said he is grateful to have these men and women here to serve the community in their time of need.

“We’ve pretty much turned our Sunday School into a hotel for these people,” he said. “They are going to become a part of our community for a while. We are proud to host these relief workers because they are reaching out to people in their worst moments and providing meaningful aid.”

Charles Pyles, a volunteer for Texas Baptist Men, assists food workers by washing bins Monday at Nederland First Baptist Church. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

Burden said he has members of his own church in the organizations that are assisting those in need.

“We stand with our community to make sure that everyone gets back into their homes and gets their lives restored,” he said. “We want to be a resource for Nederland and the surrounding community for our neighbors who are hurting.”

Texas Baptist Men Disaster Relief teams can assist by providing boxes and packaging materials to pack personal belongings, can remove sheetrock, treat mold, move debris from homes to curb and provide and install tarps on damaged roofs.

All assistance is provided free of charge.

To request assistance or for additional information, call (972) 638-6987, (972) 639-6988 or email tbmdoc@tbmtx.org. Phones are manned Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.