For Pat Buckner, it all started when a friend needed a ride.
Sixteen years ago, when Hurricane Katrina tore a path through the Southeast, a friend of Buckner’s had a ride down into the disaster area, but she needed a ride back home to North Carolina.
So Buckner went, and she was so impacted by the work of North Carolina Baptists on Mission to go into disaster zones and help those who are suffering that she’s been involved ever since.
“You get addicted,” she said. “Once you go, you will get more blessing from them than you give. … It’s just overwhelming.”
Buckner was initially trained in the mass feeding unit, where food is regularly cooked for thousands of people, but now she serves in administrative capacities, helping organize and track the volunteers, funds and work orders that come into the command center.
Currently, she’s serving at the Incident Command Center set up at New Orleans First Baptist Church, where many other North Carolina Baptists are volunteering following Hurricane Ida’s destruction in late August.
“Getting to help [local residents] repair their homes is one thing we do, but caring for them is the main job … and you can tell the ones who are hurting, and you can stop and pray for them right there,” said Buckner, who is a member of Rockingham First Baptist Church in North Carolina.
At this command center, North Carolina Baptists on Mission are cooking meals for thousands of people a day. Since Sept. 7, they have made anywhere from 5,000 to 13,500 meals a day, according to Paul Hooker, who oversees the operations at this command center. They partner with the Salvation Army to get the food distributed to those who need it.
Hooker said there’s a lot of recovery work happening through the volunteers who are staying at New Orleans First Baptist, although they’ve experienced some rain delays from Tropical Storm Nicholas.
The recovery teams have been able to complete 91 work orders for local residents despite the rainy conditions.