Two dozen Southern Baptist Convention volunteers head to Florida to provide support

SBC already responded to flooding in Texas, and is going to Puerto Rico as well

By Rob Manch - Reporter

LYNCHBURG, Va. - A religious charity in Virginia sent volunteers to Florida Saturday to help Hurricane Irma victims.

The Southern Baptist Convention of Virginia says after responding to flooding in Texas, and now Florida and Puerto Rico, they're stretched thin for volunteers and supplies.

Early Saturday morning, volunteers in Lynchburg hooked up their truck to a trailer of supplies in preparation for the long trip to Florida.

"Some people lost everything so it makes you feel good that you can go down there and help these people out," volunteer Lew Richards said.

Richards and his fellow volunteers say, though they're happy to help, they haven't volunteered for the Southern Baptist Convention since 2005. Disaster Relief Director Mark Gauthier says at this point, they're running out of available candidates.

"We are stretched very thin right now. We're starting to reach into volunteers that haven't gone for a period of time and that are not currently credentialed, and we do some just in-time training for them," Gauthier said.

The volunteers who left from Lynchburg are part of about two dozen throughout Virginia that the Southern Baptist Convention is sending to Florida to provide relief. That's in addition to the three dozen the organization sent to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas, and they're sending even more volunteers to Puerto Rico to help the victims of Hurricane Maria. When it's all said and done, this may be the largest relief effort it's ever attempted, the SBCV said.

"The only thing that compares to it is Katrina, and because of the number of storms, and now the number of teams that we're sending out, our response time is actually going to extend what we did in Katrina," said Gauthier.

Gauthier says, with each new team comes an added cost for the SBCV.

"We can spend two to three thousand dollars for each unit, each trailer each team that goes down, so when we're sending multiple teams, we're looking at spending tens of thousands of dollars between our Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico responses," Gauthier said.

Over the next week, the volunteers will be cleaning out flooded homes and clearing away debris. Richards says, he's glad he was called on to help out.

"We just hope that in some small way that we can go down there and make a difference for these people that are really suffering from the loss," said Gauthier.

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