Helping in New York: `a wonderful experience ... a very sad occasion'


November 04, 2001|By Rosalie Falter | Rosalie Falter,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

OUR HEART aches for them. They have a long way to go toward recovery," Joan Childs wrote last month in a journal she kept while a volunteer at the disaster site in New York. Joan and her husband, Robert, were there with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Program.

Members of the Linthicum Baptist Church, the Ferndale couple were part of a group of 15 people from the Maryland-Delaware Southern Baptist Association who spent about a week at the site to feed police, firefighters, Marines and Red Cross workers, and people who were displaced from their homes because of the Sept. 11 tragedy.

The Maryland-Delaware unit worked with groups from other states, among them Kentucky, New York, South Carolina, Ohio, and Michigan. They worked around the clock for 12-hour shifts preparing 5,000 meals daily under tents on the grounds of Floyd Bennett Air Field, an abandoned World War II naval air base not far from Coney Island.

Volunteers were required to wear yellow hats marked with identification while they worked. They were divided into evening and day shifts.

The Childses were part of the day crew. They arrived at the site at 5:30 a.m. to eat breakfast before starting their shift at 6 a.m. They worked until 6 p.m. and then attended a 7 p.m. prayer service in one of the airport hangars before they were able to call it a day. Joan said they were exhausted when they turned in at 9 p.m.

Robert said he spent his first day cooking, but when more help was needed in the warehouse, he went to work there. The warehouse contained emergency response vehicles, trucks filled with food, and space for paper and plastic products.

Robert said he loaded large boxes of canned foods onto pallets and forklifts for delivery to the kitchen. "We were told what the menu would be for lunch and dinner, and we pulled the food they wanted," he said.

Joan spent her time cooking lunch and dinner. She said meals typically included meat, vegetables, fruit, drinks and dessert. Several people were assigned the task of preparing coffee, tea and lemonade, and they were kept busy doing only that.

The relief groups worked under the auspices of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross supplied all food the volunteers prepared and the insulated containers that were filled with food and taken by the Red Cross for distribution at "ground zero."

Joan said particular attention was paid to food safety: Inspectors were present to ensure that food was heated to at least 180 degrees before being put in the travel containers.

The containers were cleaned in three solutions between use. Volunteers were required to wear gloves all the time, and cans were opened only after the tops had been washed with bleach.

After the last disaster relief she worked on, when hurricane Floyd hit in 1999, Joan decided to keep a journal. She thought it would be a good idea to ask her co-workers to sign their names and write the names of their churches.

Five people from Glen Burnie Baptist Church were present: Dennis McFayden, Annie and Fred Stumme, Brenda Thompson and Kathy Solomon.

Joan said she has many memories from the week she and Robert spent in New York. She particularly remembers the gratitude and generosity she experienced from people there.

One woman who visited the site identified herself as a beautician and offered the volunteers free haircuts. She brought pizza for them one day and pastries another day. She said she didn't know how else to show how grateful she was that they had come to help.

As the Maryland-Delaware unit was leaving, several people whom Joan did not know gave her thank-you notes. Police gave them T-shirts, and the phone company gave them phone cards. "I don't know, people were so grateful. They just wanted to give us things," Joan said.

Joan also remembers the uncomfortably cold wind coming off the water, the terrible smell close to the disaster site, and the barriers on the streets. She remembers the gas station attendant who spoke of neighbors lost in the tragedy.

But she also remembers how good it felt to know that her shift served 40,000 meals to feed those who were helping and those in need. Joan ends her journal entries with, "There were many laughs, many cries and many prayers. A wonderful experience although a very sad occasion."

Fun through fund-raiser

It is not too early to think about Christmas presents. An easy gift to pick up, and one that can be used for a year and helps save money at the same time, is an Entertainment 2002 book. Several groups sell them to raise money for their treasuries.

The book features hundreds of ways to save money on dining, travel, events and services. Books can be purchased for $25 from: the St. Philip Neri Church youth group, available at the rectory and religious education office, 6405 S. Orchard Road (call 410-859-0571 for hours); Linthicum Elementary School, 101 School Lane at Camp Meade Road (during school hours); and the Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights (call Anne Skillman at 410-859-1082).

Quilters shift meeting

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