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Helping Hands: physically & spiritually

MURFREESBORO — For more than 20 years the North Carolina Baptist Men (NCBM) Disaster Relief team have answered the call to assist communities in distress.

This past weekend Chowan University hosted the NCBM Disaster Relief team as they trained hundreds of volunteers.

“The Bible tells us to be the hands and feet of Christ,” said Steve Stancil, Volunteer State Disaster Relief Coordinator, about the organization’s efforts. “This is a way to be the hands and feet of Christ.”

Since 1984, the NCBM Disaster Relief team has worked to help communities devastated by natural and, in the case of 9/11, unnatural disasters.

Stancil said one of the first disasters NCBM responded to was in Red Springs.

In 1984, during the Carolina Tornado outbreak, the Robeson County town was struck by a F4 tornado. Back then the Disaster Relief team answered the call providing hot meals victims of the tornado.

Twenty-five years later, NCBM Disaster Relief has grown into a full-fledge operation, a literal convoy of trailers (more than 200 of them), three certified kitchens, water tankers and volunteers that provide several relief services, including temporary child care, recovery efforts, fresh water, laundry service and hot showers.

Stancil said the program runs completely on contributions from the public.

“The more you respond the more needs you see,” said Stancil about the growth of NCBM Disaster Relief.

According to NCBM website, since its inception, the Disaster Relief team has provided more than 3.5 million hot meals and removed debris from or repaired over 16,000 homes.

NCBM Disaster Relief has taken its 10,000 trained volunteers all over the nation. The team has worked in such national crises as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. On a more local level, Disaster Relief has responded to Hurricane Isabel, the Hyde County Wildfires and more recently, the Johnston/Wilson County tornado.

On Friday and Saturday, over 200 volunteers descended on the Chowan University campus to be trained in one of the several volunteer services provided during disasters.

An estimated 50 to 60 local volunteers were involved with helping to put on the Region 1 (which includes the Roanoke-Chowan area) training, one of the five regional training seminars held annually across the state.

Stancil said this was the first time a training session was held at a university as those in the past have typically took place at churches.

Region 1 Leader Preston Spear said when the whole team is out on call to a disaster it’s quite a sight to see.

At the core of the NCBM operation is the Command Unit, the latest addition to the fleet, which provides a focal point for both volunteers and victims. The Command Unit has a communications center which has Internet, radio and satellite access.

Spear said the Command Unit also comes in handy for outside agencies like the National Guard to set up a post.

Basic, advance and re-certification courses were offered in Camp Hall and at different workstations around the campus.

Among the trailers on site to provide hands on training to volunteers were a kitchen, recovery, as well as shower and laundry units.

Spear said NCBM Disaster Relief even has a trailer designated for temporary childcare.

“This is a full fledge daycare center; volunteers go through a police background check,” he said. “Parents can drop their children off for a couple hours while they go fill out paperwork.”

Spear spoke about the recovery unit which helps in removing trees/tree limbs from homes as well as provides repairs and, need be, builds homes.

“This ministry (recovery) is great because they get to work face-to-face with victims,” he said. “Each family is presented with a Bible at the end of each project…it’s a really touching ceremony.”

Both Stancil and Spear agreed the work volunteers do is life changing experience.

“We hope we help a lot of people physically and spiritually,” said Spear. “We gain a lot out of it too.”

To learn more about the NCBM Disaster Relief, to donate or to volunteer visit: www.ncmission.org.