LINCOLN, Neb. -- They are highly organized and ready to pitch in where needed when a disaster happens anywhere in the country. Faith-based groups like American Baptist Churches of Nebraska and Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief move volunteers in as soon as they can begin relief and recovery operations. Their work cannot be too highly praised. It has been a godsend to individuals suffering from the effects of disasters.
George Betz, the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) voluntary agency liaison, learned of the work of these two Baptist groups following the recent Nebraska storms and tornadoes. He points out that many such groups have set up departments specifically for disaster relief-for example, Mennonite Disaster Services, United Jewish Communities, Catholic Charities USA, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and Friends Disaster service, to mention a few.
When wind-tossed trees and debris crashed into homes and entangled power lines in Douglas, Kearney, Washington and Colfax, Jason Workman of Disaster Trailers under American Baptist Churches, rushed in with a trained team of six men. The men cut trees away and freed broken branches and debris from power lines so the companies could restore service. They also ran generators to provide some homes with electricity.
"We have a team deployed to Valley County right now," Workman said. "They are using high power washers and other tools from our trailers to clean up flood damage. We also have safety supplies and generators over there. With the amount of need all over the state, we hope to purchase even more equipment."
The Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief teams are known for their food and shower services. They have trailers equipped to turn out good meals fast and additional trailers with showers to handle large numbers of disaster victims who use the shower units.
"We feed people but we also call upon our members to help out where hands are needed," said Art Push, the SBC disaster relief coordinator for eastern Nebraska. "We were in Millard primarily to help clean up debris after the tornado. We cut trees and cleared roads. We do whatever we're called to do."?
George Betz works closely with faith-based and other non-profit groups, with state and local governments and emergency responders-many of whom are staffed by volunteers. He said they are all valuable partners following a disaster, not only in serving immediate needs but in responding to long-term recovery efforts.
Even if an individual has received help from a faith-based group or volunteer or state agency, they may qualify for a disaster grant from FEMA. The number to call for more information is 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or TTY 1-800-462-7585 for the speech- or hearing-impaired.
FEMA coordinates the federal government's role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.