John Hayes says there’s still a lot of work to be done in Arcadia, Florida, and it’s going to take a lot of people to do it.
Hayes, who’s currently serving as the white hat in charge of Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief efforts in Arcadia, said their site has taken in more than 1,000 requests for help with tarping, chainsaw work, cleanup and mudout in the wake of Hurricane Ian, which made landfall Sept. 28.
Volunteers have worked to fulfill those orders for the past several weeks, and so far they’ve finished several hundred, Hayes said.
He estimated that it might take two more months to complete the work.
“The sad part is most of the people here retired down here,” Hayes said. “Probably everything they’ve got just about is in their home, and when it’s wiped out, insurance won’t cover flood damage. It’s a sad situation.”
Scott Bush, pastor of Southcrest Baptist Church in Bessemer, said the people of Arcadia are “profoundly affected.”
His team leader, Keith Brown, said the older homeowners are “just overwhelmed with so much yard work, trying to get the trees cleaned up and are not physically able to do all they have to do, so they’re so thankful to have the help.”
On Oct. 21, Brown and Bush were working as part of an eight-person chainsaw and skid-steer cleanup team from Shelby Baptist Association.
Their team was part of the larger ABDR volunteer group housed at First Baptist Church Arcadia — around 180 people from Alabama and South Carolina.
Bush said the scope of the effort is “really just remarkable” with “just rows and rows of equipment” and “people cooking food, handling laundry and taking care of the bathroom trailers.”
“It’s an unbelievable team, just incredible,” he said.
Hayes said FBC Arcadia has been a gracious host, as has the local Calvary Baptist Church, which hosted the mass feeding unit while it was operating.
But he asked for prayer for FBC and their pastor, Sam Letson, as they are stretched thin like the community around them. In addition to church members cleaning up their own properties and helping their neighbors, the church itself has roof damage to address.
As contractors have been repairing that this week, the 180 disaster relief volunteers have shuffled around the church to sleep in whatever rooms are available.
The arrangement hasn’t slowed anyone down though, Hayes said. “The teams are getting a good bit of work done.”
More help needed
But they still need more help.
With potentially two months of work remaining, more teams are needed, he said. “We always need more.”
Bush said he has enjoyed being a part of the volunteer effort in Arcadia. This is his second deployment, and he said he is “very impressed with the impact of the ministry and the people who do it.”
“It’s a real culture here,” he said.
“People bring their skills and energy, and they know each other from other deployments. It’s like a community.”
It’s a community that wants to meet needs and share the hope of Jesus, Brown said.
Since Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief began working in Arcadia, 29 people have made first-time professions of faith.
“We prayed with a couple in their 80s today — the wife has terminal cancer,” Brown said.
He said the husband isn’t a follower of Jesus, but he was so grateful for the work the team had done that he was open to them praying with him. While they were praying, the next-door neighbor came to listen.
“We all looked up and he was very moved, teary eyed, not just from the work but the prayers,” Brown said.
“It’s been great to do the work and get to help and talk with the people here.”
To support Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief or to learn more about training to be a volunteer for future callouts, visit sbdr.org.
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