An emergency childcare unit has opened at the Red Cross shelter in the tornado-ravaged town. Trained Kentucky Baptist volunteers are providing activities and care for the children, giving parents time to take the first steps in recovery.
"… amilies are coming back to the community and they need all the help we can give them as they try to move forward," said Coy Webb, director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention Baptist Men on Missions department.
Children visiting the childcare unit receive a handmade blanket from Kentucky Baptists, with a "label" sewn inside each blanket relaying a message of love and care.
This is the first deployment of the childcare unit launched last year by Christian County Baptist Association's churches.
More than 100 disaster relief volunteers are serving in communities across the commonwealth impacted by a string of tornadoes that killed more than 20 people.
In addition to the childcare unit, Baptist volunteers are providing hot meals, clean-up assistance, hot showers and laundry service.
At each location, chaplains trained to counsel people in crisis are offering a listening ear and comfort.
With communications badly disrupted in West Liberty because of the twister, KBC's emergency communications unit helped keep individuals and organizations connected in the days immediately after the tornado.
The services are made possible through gifts to Kentucky Baptist Disaster Relief and the Cooperative Program.
Hundreds of Kentucky Baptists who are not official disaster relief volunteers have been working in various ways through their individual congregations to meet needs.
"We've been getting reports from all over the state through social media," said Robert Reeves, director of communications for the Kentucky Baptist Convention. "There's so much going on that there's no way we will ever be able to share all the stories."
One of those stories comes from Hickory Grove Baptist Church in Independence, which launched a community Facebook group to coordinate disaster relief efforts. It has drawn nearly 2,400 members and is organizing work crews, fundraisers and other assistance.
"We always need more trained disaster relief volunteers and it is important to let people know that in a lot of cases unofficial volunteers are turned away from disaster areas by law enforcement or the Red Cross," Reeves said. "But there are 2,400 KBC-affiliated churches in the commonwealth and many of them have been and continue to be very busy meeting needs and sharing Christ following this disaster. We are very grateful for that."
Webb and Reeves encourage Kentucky Baptists who feel called to disaster relief ministry to attend Saturday's training at Porter Memorial Baptist Church in Lexington from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST.
"At the end of that one training session, you will be eligible to serve on a disaster call-out," Webb said. New volunteers pay $40 per person. Returning volunteers who have not attended training since October 2008 are asked to pay $20. Another training opportunity April 14 at First Baptist Church in London will include Phase 1 training for new or renewing volunteers as well as a Phase 2 session during which volunteers are instructed on a specific ministry area such as childcare, communications, the mobile kitchen and chainsaw units. Online registration for each event is underway at www.kybaptist.org/drtraining.
Kentucky Baptists' disaster relief is on the Web at www.kybaptist.org/dr.
Dannah Prather is the Kentucky Baptist Convention's marketing & media relations associate.
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