“I heard about the Sanctuary’s cooking kitchen and called to see if they could go up to New York to do some cooking,” Wallace said.
Wallace works with the Chaplain’s Commission out of Cleveland, Tenn. The Chaplains Commission is a Department of the Church of God Division of Care. The Commission trains chaplains and dispatches certified volunteer Community Service Chaplains and other volunteers to assist with disaster relief.
Dr. Jake Popejoy, coordinator for the Community Service and Training for Community Chaplains, responding in an email, wrote, “The ‘Sandy’ team of chaplains came from various parts of the USA.
“We, the Chaplains Commission, continue to be grateful to the many volunteers, who selflessly continue to give time, energy and finance to ensure that others are blessed.”
Wallace had the King’s Kitchen and another mobile cooking team from Refuel Ministries in Birmingham coordinate their efforts in Lyndhurst, Far Rockaway, Queens and Flatbush, N.Y.
Bobby Davis, King’s Kitchen coordinator and veteran responder to Katrina and the 2010 Alabama tornadoes, and certified by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said their trip to New York was not without incident.
Passing through Birmingham Nov. 6 the team had to replace the tires on their truck. Stopping in Midway, Pa., for gas, the idle arm on their truck froze and had to be replaced, delaying their journey until the next day.
“Once he (the local mechanic) knew what we were doing he provided free labor and just charged for parts,” Davis said.
Refuel Ministries, led by Darren and Lavaughn Jarvis, also encountered a breakdown in Knoxville, Tenn. The axle on their supply trailer bent and a local retailer purchased another trailer to continue the journey, gave them $250, and told them he would repair their trailer at no charge.
Sanctuary Pastor Freddie Edwards arrived the day before with Associate Pastor Patrick Harris and Pastor Rick Lavell from the Marshall Street Church of God in Alexander City.
“We knocked on doors canvassing needs, taking food and offering prayer,” Edwards said.
He said the area was significantly damaged by the water surge that traveled at least three-fourths of a mile inland.
“Water lines inside homes were shoulder high,” Edwards said.
When the team arrived they were shocked at what they saw. “My God. This is awful — no heat, no food, no electricity, cars were under water,” team member Gwen Couey said.
“Seventy-thousand dollar cars were under 8-feet of water,” Davis said.
Once the team set up in the parking lot of a city park, curiosity drew people to their site. The team passed out fliers and by lunch they were packed out. Those afraid to leave their homes received home delivery.
“They were scared to leave their homes because of looters,” Davis said.
The team heard pitiful stories.
“One family said they had eaten what they had in the house and had resorted to eating dog food,” Davis said.
Couey said one woman, whose clothes were wet and who had not eaten in four days, fell to her knees and began to thank God for their arrival.
Davis said other groups set up in the parking lot, including the Red Cross, which distributed blankets and flashlights, and another cooking team from North Carolina set up next to them.
Local restaurants also responded by donating sandwiches, meat loaf and other food to give away; and they gave the team members free food.
Besides the local residents, the team fed inmates that assisted in the cleanup and their guards, local police and state troopers.
The team coordinated their efforts with Pastor Rick Mullins and his wife, Rita, pastor of the Evangel Church of God in Lyndhurst.
Edwards said the pastor’s wife received a text message from a member waiting in line at a gas station. The message said a man was telling those waiting in line about the location of the cooking team, and said, “That is the best chili I ever had.”
The team also helped with the cleanup, assisting with sheetrock removal and piling it on the streets.
Couey said one woman asked her to talk to her 13-year-old daughter, who was mad at God for allowing the disaster to strike. “It’s hard to explain to a kid,” Couey said.
“You must be flexible because you never know where a need may arise or what it may be,” Edwards said.
The team encountered few problems except that Davis accidentally scalded his left arm removing the lid from a pot of boiling chicken. A local police officer administered aid and a local nurse provided salve. Davis said the nurse dubbed the team, “the Bama boys.”
Couey said the only other problem they had is that Davis couldn’t find any biscuits to eat.
Wallace said the people were thankful but remained in a daze.
“There is still a lot of work to do, and we are in it for the long term,” Wallace said. “We will send others up for CISD (Critical Incident Stress Debriefing), clean out homes, and help get lives back to normal.”
The King’s Kitchen arrived home Nov. 14 at 11:30 p.m., Davis said.
“I want to thank everyone that supported the effort,” Edwards said.
Contact Mark Ledbetter at email@example.com.