Alabama Baptists’ new airlift kitchen will become the model for Baptists nationwide who wish to build one like it for disaster relief, said Tommy Puckett, state disaster relief coordinator through the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions.
The kitchen — broken down and stored in 12 containers that fit easily on almost any airplane — was deemed Baptists’ most efficient model by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), according to Puckett.
“They (NAMB) saw the way it was packaged and built, the practicality of each of the boxes and the fact that there was no wasted space,” he explained. “The other states felt they couldn’t improve on it enough to override it, so NAMB decided it should serve as the one to go by.”
The airlift kitchen is the second one state Baptists have built.
The first was constructed by Cliff McMahan, state airlift kitchen coordinator, in 1995. After Alabama Baptist teams used it to serve thousands of meals to victims of the 2003 earthquake in Bam, Iran, they donated the kitchen for Armenian Baptists to use.
Between that disaster and the current model’s construction, the International Mission Board gave a similar kitchen to Alabama Baptists, but it was left in Indonesia following tsunami relief work in 2006, according to Puckett.
This new replacement kitchen — McMahan’s second to help build — is fashioned after the first one, with minor tweaks.
“We wished we had had more cooking space while we were there (with the first Alabama kitchen in Iran), so we added more burners and pots this time around,” said McMahan, a member of Dawson Memorial Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Baptist Association.
He, along with David Mulkey, a member of Four Mile Baptist Church, Wilsonville, in Shelby Baptist Association, and district disaster relief coordinator John Hayes, also added specialized coolers for food storage and shake-up flashlights so that no batteries would be needed.
“Everything is made ready to leave quickly. When disaster comes, all you have to do is open one box and add in some ingredients,” McMahan said.
Some boxes contain generators so the kitchen can run self-sufficiently once set up. Two cooking boxes have stainless-steel tops that can be used for food preparation, and two serving boxes have the same for use in a serving line.
“Every piece of equipment has a usage,” Puckett said, adding that the kitchen has the capacity to feed 2,500–3,000 meals a day.
McMahan, Mulkey and Hayes are currently finalizing the boxes, labeling the contents of each and coupling the labels with easy-to-use instructions on how to unpack and repack the equipment on-site.
The kitchen — to be Alabama Baptists’ sole airlift version — is nearly ready to go. Its first priority will be international disasters, but there is a possibility of it being mobilized stateside if other kitchen units become stretched too thin.
“We’ve got everything prepared; we just need volunteers,” Mulkey said. “We ran them ragged last year and did a lot of training, too. But we always need more.”
For more information, call Puckett’s office at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 229.
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