Ferndale couple put disaster relief training to work after Floyd

NEIGHBORS

October 10, 1999|By Rosalie Falter | Rosalie Falter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

FERNDALE'S Robert and Joan Childs are motivated by the need to help others through their Christian faith. They are members of a response unit of the Maryland/Delaware Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief Program.

They belong to Linthicum Baptist Church, whose former pastor, the Rev. Elwood Ulmer, spoke to them this year about a program that certified volunteers to respond to natural or other disasters in relief efforts.

The couple received training through a Red Cross course given in early June at Glen Burnie Baptist Church, so they would be available to respond to the challenge of helping people affected by disasters.

They learned that disaster could mean anything from a fire involving only one family to an ice storm paralyzing an entire community. Or a hurricane.

The call to action came by telephone at 9 a.m. Sept. 12, courtesy of a storm named Floyd. Their assignment was to cook meals for people flooded out by the hurricane.

Uncertain about their eventual destination, the Childses had until 3 p.m. to get to the Middle River Baptist Church and meet other volunteers -- including three from Glen Burnie -- and see the kitchen-equipped truck they would use.

"We thought we might be sent to North Carolina, but when we met up with the group, we found out we were going to New Jersey," Mrs. Childs said. "Five cars followed the truck in caravan style until we arrived at the Somerville police station. With our letter from the Southern Baptist Relief Program, we were admitted to the disaster area and directed to the Somerville sheriff's lot where we set up under a tent."

For the next four days -- two of them rainy -- they, with 18 other volunteers, worked under the Red Cross program, cooking 3,000 hot meals outdoors.

"It was heavy work and exhausting and not real glamorous. The huge cans of food were heavy and hard to open, even for the men," Mrs. Childs said.

The Childses started at 6 a.m. to prepare lunches and, after handing those over to the Red Cross to deliver, began to fix the supper. Food was packaged with bottles of water brought to the site by the National Guard and delivered to those who had been hard hit by the hurricane.

It wasn't until 9: 30 p.m., after the pots and pans were scrubbed and everything was cleaned up, that the Childses were able to call it a day and sleep in their van on the site.

The last two days, the Childses said, Red Cross workers asked whether they would like to ride on the truck delivering the meals in the New Brunswick area. It was a real eye-opener.

Until then, they had seen mostly main roads, which didn't give an idea of the extent of the damage. When they went into the towns, they couldn't believe how bad things were. They saw bulldozers in the street pushing rugs, sofas and all kinds of contaminated household articles. All of it was headed for the dump.

Officials were allowing people to return to their homes, and some residents were scrubbing down the best they could. Still without electricity, the residents were happy to receive the hot meals.

"When they saw the truck coming with the food, they came out of the houses to greet us, they were so happy to get the meals," Mrs. Childs said. "They would tell us how many were in the family."

Many were Spanish-speaking, Mrs. Childs said, so she fell back on her high-school Spanish lessons to say hello and goodbye and she understood numbers when they told her how many meals were needed.

The experience left a lasting impression on the couple, who say seeing lives shattered by the hurricane was very upsetting. "When I first came back home, I couldn't talk about it. We saw so much devastation. I especially felt bad when I saw this husband and wife in their 80s. They looked like they didn't know what to do, they looked lost," Mrs. Childs said.

But though the experience was exhausting, difficult and upsetting, she said it was also very fulfilling. Asked whether she and her husband would go the next time they are called, she responded very quickly: "Oh, yes, definitely."

Delegate to give talk

Del. Mary Ann Love will be the speaker at Tuesday's meeting of the Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights. A member of the Maryland General Assembly since 1993 and of the Woman's Club for two years, Love is the first female chairman of the county delegation.

A Democrat, she has long been active in community and political affairs and served in various county positions before being appointed to fill a vacancy in the House of Delegates. She was elected in 1994 and re-elected last year.

The group's Public Affairs Committee, headed by member Pat Barrows, is in charge of the program for Tuesday's meeting, which will begin at 10: 30 a.m. at the clubhouse, 110 N. Hammonds Ferry Road. It is open to the public.

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