Pflugerville church prepares meals for evacuees, laundry units support Austin mega-shelter

SBTC DR teams have prepared more than 25,000 meals since Aug. 31

September 4th, 2017 / By: Jane Rodgers | Managing Editor / comments

AUSTIN, Texas—Hurricane Harvey evacuees housed in Austin at the city’s mega-shelter are being fed with meals prepared by Southern Baptists of Texas Disaster Relief volunteers headquartered at Pflugerville First Baptist Church.

The food is provided and distributed by the American Red Cross to the city’s mass shelter southeast of Austin.

Originally housed in Austin’s convention center and other shelters across the city, evacuees began moving to the mega-shelter in an industrial park Fri., Sept. 1.

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The Austin City Council appropriated funds to lease the industrial space, with its large parking lot, for up to eight months at $112,740 per month, the Austin American Statesman reported, adding that fire, police and medical units are on site. Air-conditioned tents are provided to serve meals, with other tents available to house evacuees’ pets.

Austin Capital Metro spokesperson Mariette Hummel said Friday a bus stop will be added on the 228 line to help shelter residents access remote services, retail and medical facilities.

The First Baptist Pflugerville DR team set up mass feeding operations in the church’s south parking lot last week and prepared 1,880 hot meals Sept. 1; 2,320 the following day; and 1,675 on Sunday, with work continuing as the team remains the only source of meals for Austin-area evacuees

Around 15-18 SBTC DR volunteers per day are serving at the church, Mike Northen, education pastor at FBC Pflugerville and a SBTC DR unit director, told the TEXAN. All volunteers are local residents and members of the church.

Northen complimented the Red Cross team working with the Pflugerville crew, including the on-site mass feeding director Dave Waldrip.

“The Red Cross has been very attentive to our needs,” Northen said, noting that his feeding team received equipment and supplies faster than ever before.

“It usually takes us all week to get operational,” Northen added. “This time we did it in three days.”

When asked how long the church planned to prepare meals for mass feeding in Austin, Northen replied, “As long as it takes. I don’t think we really know how long we will be operating. From the Red Cross’s view, it depends on the shelter population. The city of Austin health inspector told me today [Sept. 1] that there may be another 2,500 people coming. They are prepared for that many. We are the only kitchen feeding so far.”

Waldrip said that he had worked with Southern Baptist crews on 9 of 10 disaster relief deployments, adding, “They’re great.”

Muriel Parker was among the SBTC DR volunteers at the church, performing administrative work including scheduling volunteers to work.

“Our feeding crew is really fantastic,” Parker said, complimenting kitchen crew chief Shirley Carter and the rest of the volunteers who began meal preparations for supper outside as temperatures soared to the mid-90s.

Parker showed a picture of her 13-year-old grandson doing cleanup work at Farrington Mission in Houston’s impoverished Fifth Ward as part of Northeast Houston Baptist Church’s relief efforts. Parker’s son-in-law Nathan Lino, is the NEHBC pastor and president of the SBTC.

FBC Pflugerville suffered water damage to its sanctuary from storm-related groundwater seeping through the foundation, Northen said. As drying fans roared in the background, he added, “We are not a rich church. We are a blue collar church. People think we have a lot of money, but we don’t. But we are here to help.”

The mass feeding unit at Pflugerville is one of the original units built by the SBTC after Hurricane Katrina, Northen said. The church maintains and insures the unit, which stands ready to deploy.

SBTC mass feeding units at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston and Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont are staffed and expected to begin preparing meals in support of the Red Cross over the Labor Day weekend. The SBTC feeding team headquartered at Annaville Baptist Church in Corpus Christi continues to cook.

Since Aug. 31, SBTC feeding teams have prepared more than 25,000 meals distributed by the Red Cross to victims along the Texas Gulf Coast and Southeast Texas.

A laundry unit provided by the Kansas/Nebraska Baptist Convention became operational at the Austin mega-shelter over the weekend, manned by a three-person DR crew of Steve, Melissa and Lauren Yeldell from the FIRM Baptist Area association, northeast of Austin.

FEMA directed the city of Austin to provide a second 12-machine laundry unit Saturday afternoon. The Yeldells kept all eight washer/dryer combinations running, doing 119 loads Sunday and working nonstop Monday.

Melissa Yeldell confirmed that her team would be relieved by another FIRM crew on Monday.

A unit from Alabama is en route to support relief efforts in Northwest Houston, according to SBTC DR Director Scottie Stice.

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