Lake Norman & Mooresville

After disaster, they feed the multitude

When disaster looms, Becky Cline and Larry Freeze, members of Peninsula Baptist Church in Mooresville, activate a plan. They're volunteers in Region 8 with the N.C. Baptist Men's Disaster Relief Team. The region encompasses eight counties, including Iredell.

Region 8 responds to major disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Freeze, disaster relief coordinator, leads the Manna One feeding team that reacts to natural and manmade disasters. They can provide 30,000 meals a day with their new Manna One unit and have prepared 23,000 meals in a day using two smaller units. “Twenty-three thousand meals will fill two construction dumpsters,” said Freeze.

Volunteers provide lunch and evening meals for victims. “We feed anybody who walks up. As volunteers come to do recovery, etc., we feed them. We cannot turn anybody away,” said Freeze.

Workers rise around 3 or 4:30 a.m. on days they're preparing 10,000 or more meals. They must follow the same laws as restaurants. Health inspectors check their procedures, and Manna One always passes inspection, even the time they served chicken salad in Florida.

When the team arrived in Gulfport, Miss., after Katrina, victims could drive up and request takeout meals, said Freeze. Volunteers fed people in Gulfport for two years.

Someone has to contact all these volunteers, who rotate every seven days. That's the job of Cline, communications coordinator. When the Red Cross calls Baptist disaster relief at national headquarters, the request is forwarded to the state level and to Cline. She checks her contact list of 800 people and begins punching phone numbers.

Cline contacts the set-up team first. They're the front line. These 19 men and women are trained to assemble equipment. They may leave before a disaster strikes and report to a staging area. Other team members follow.

The volunteers have been busy this hurricane season. Placed on standby before Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana, they reported to Houma, La., to prepare meals after the storm hit. As Hurricane Ike approached the Gulf Coast, Manna One was moved to a protected area and then to Baytown, Texas. Volunteers have to juggle jobs and responsibilities. Freeze owns a business but is committed to providing leadership. He and Cline enjoy discussing their involvement with Manna One. They agree that despite the inevitable headaches, the work is fun. “This is something I can do for the Lord,” said Freeze.