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The Great Smoky Mountain Journal

Staff Reports

Posted: Sunday, January 21, 2018 11:25 AM

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Volunteers From East TN Lining Up To Assist Flood Victims In SE Texas Affected By Hurricane Harvey

KNOX COUNTY - Volunteers with Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief are on alert and standby for deployment to Texas following the destruction brought by Harvey.

A team at Lyons Creek Baptist Church had been working to outfit a new disaster relief trailer for a few weeks and planned to take a while longer to finish installations. On Sunday, the team hurried to finish installations in case they need to respond to the disaster in Texas.

"We've been in areas that had had eight to 10 feet of water in homes," Lyons Creek Baptist disaster relief director Stanley Roach said. "From what they're predicting in the next few days, it's kind of unbelievable that that much water could fall in one area."

Roach is one of around a thousand volunteers in Knox County who have been trained and passed a background check to serve with Tennessee Baptists Disaster Relief. Knox County Association of Baptist disaster relief director Lou Mulsand says statewide, the organization has a volunteer pool of around 10,000. Mulsand says for any given disaster response, around 10 percent of the trained volunteers are able to respond.

"We are the volunteer state, and when big things happen - like up in Gatlinburg - we get a lot of participation," Mulsand said.

As of Sunday evening, volunteer and feeding units are on alert, while recovery crews - including chainsaw crews, laundry units and assessment teams - are on standby.

Mulsand says Tennessee Baptist teams will be called in if disaster relief teams from the Texas Baptist Convention can't meet the immediate needs of people in the affected areas.

With Harvey expected to dump up to 50 inches in parts of Southeast Texas over the new few days, flooding delays assessors from determining what type of assistance is needed.

"We're not first responders, and we can't go in until the water goes down," Mulsand said. "You have to coordinate a place to put the kitchens and house the volunteers, and all of that takes time. If those areas are flooded and they can't get in there, then all that is hard to do."

Mulsand says Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief works hand-in-hand with the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Mulsand says Southern Baptist Disaster Relief kitchen units cook around 95 percent of food for the Red Cross.

Though the organization works to meet the immediate needs of those in disaster zones, Roach says that's not the only reason he serves.

"Sometimes its not just cleaning out their home, it's to sit and listen to them and to listen to them tell about the story of what happened," Roach said. "Hopefully through the whole process we'll develop some relationships and through those relationship we can share Christ with them."