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Feature Stories November 16, 2012  RSS feed

Traveling Far To Help The Victims Of Sandy

‘Southern’ Faithful In Glendale To Lend Hand
story and photo by Robert Pozarycki


Members of the Southern Baptist Church from Kentucky and Ohio are staying at a Glendale church while volunteering to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy. Along the way, they made contact with members of the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol, who have helped them feel right at home in Queens. Members of the Southern Baptist Church from Kentucky and Ohio are staying at a Glendale church while volunteering to assist victims of Hurricane Sandy. Along the way, they made contact with members of the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol, who have helped them feel right at home in Queens. They traveled thousands of miles to help victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York City, and in doing so, members of the Southern Baptist Church have been receiving a bit of northern hospitality from the people of Glendale.

Staying at the Queens Bible Church on Cooper Avenue near 73rd Place, the volunteers from Kentucky and Ohio have worked long hours each day cooking and serving tens of thousands of meals for storm victims in the parking lot of the Resorts World New York casino in South Ozone Park.

Turning out about 26,000 meals a day since their arrival, the church members’ task was made all the more complicated when last Wednesday’s (Nov. 9) snowstorm knocked down the tent above their mobile kitchen. But even that wasn’t enough to slow down their efforts, according to the Southern Baptist Church’s Karen Smith.

“We’re creative, so we cut the tent in two,” she told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview, adding that the crew used the tent to create a small wash station. As there was no other major damage to their operation, the church was back out at Resorts World last Thursday, serving “a one pot meal” called cheeseburger casserole to thousands of needy residents.

And when the volunteers returned to their Glendale base last Thursday night for a prayer meeting, they found waiting for them a robust dinner donated to them by neighborhood businesses, including German dishes from Zum Stammtisch restaurant and pizza from two local pizzerias. For many of them, it was the first time they ever had such delicacies as bratwurst, sauerbraten or calzone.

The meal was arranged through the efforts of Jon Miuta and others from the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps (GVAC) and the Glendale/ 104th Precinct Civilian Observation Patrol (104COP) as a small token of gratitude from a community for a group of Kentuckians who are doing their part to console and comfort New Yorkers who had their homes severely damaged or even destroyed by Sandy’s wrath.

Hailing from Shepherdsville, Ky., about 20 miles south of Louisville, Smith and the members of the Southern Baptist Church came to New York at the request of church leaders in New York in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Comprised of retirees and those who are employed, many of the volunteers reportedly came to the city at their own expense to lend a helping hand to people in need.

At first staying in an American Red Cross shelter in Manhasset, L.I., she noted, the volunteers spent their second night in the New York City area in their vehicles until arrangements were finally made to stay at the Queens Bible Church.

Working in cooperation with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army, Smith stated, the Southern Baptist Church set up its mobile kitchen in the Resorts World parking lot, which has doubled as a staging area for disaster relief. The kitchen itself, when fully manned, is equipped to serve up to 50,000 meals per day.

The ingredients needed to prepare the meals are provided by the American Red Cross and the church members— using appliances powered by large propane tanks—whips up tens of thousands of hot plates delivered by the Red Cross’ and Salvation Army’s emergency response vehicles to disaster-stricken areas.

“The only thing that has slowed us down was the weather,” Smith said, referring to the tent collapse during last Wednesday’s storm. While the church has been able to provide some comfort for thousands of people affected by Sandy, she noted, the task has been quite challenging.

“We’re in a real spiritual warfare here,” she said, “but it’s working out because in spite of all the challenges, food has gone out to those who need it. All the food that they wanted is going out.”

Miuta told the Times Newsweekly that he first made contact with the Kentucky volunteers while waiting on a local line to fill up at a gasoline station. After noticing a Kentucky license plate on a vehicle ahead of him, he struck up a conversation with the driver—who turned out to be one of the Southern Baptist Church volunteers.

With the church members staying at the Queens Bible Church, Miuta and other members of GVAC and 104COP have assisted them in a variety of tasks, including responding to the tent collapse last Wednesday.

Smith said that the hospitality demonstrated by the Glendale volunteers and others in the neighborhood shattered negative perceptions about life in the city.

“We’d like to take them all home with us,” she said of the people of Glendale. “We haven’t been in any place that just accepted us with open arms. They’ve made us feel like family.”

The church expects to remain in the city “as long as we’re needed,” Smith added, though other church members may come to the city to relieve some volunteers over time. Church members have even gone out to the disaster areas and tried to comfort the victims as best they can.

It is an admittedly emotional and difficult experience for the volunteers, “but we get a bigger blessing than we could ever have, just for God giving us the honor of serving the people here in New York,” Smith stated.