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Katrina prompts Farragut to action
Skippers for Schools, First Baptist Concord gather supplies, offer training

They came from Cocke, Anderson, Blount, Knox and other nearby counties and as far away as Alabama and Virginia.

They were the 400-plus people who gathered at First Baptist Church Concord to learn first-hand how to handle mass feeding in a disaster area.

The class was part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief program that has trained people to assist the American Red Cross and other agencies that feed those who have lost their homes in natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. The group has to date served more than 9.2 million meals since Katrina hit several weeks ago.

Maryville resident Carol Webb, a five-year member of First Baptist Concord, said the church usually conducts the mass feeding class twice a year but this year, due to Katrina, this special Saturday, Sept. 17, class was orchestrated.

Webb said the class prepares volunteers to “prepare meals consisting of a meat, vegetable, fruit or pudding, bread and a beverage” in some of the most environmentally hostile areas nature has constructed. The staples are “supplied by the American Red Cross” and the labor is volunteered.

Webb added that the unit – a traveling kitchen unit operated by the Tennessee Baptist Convention – is the result of a ministry that began in the 1960s after a number of hurricanes hit the Texas Gulf Coast when Baptist men began a ministry of helping the victims of these disasters. Over the years this effort grew and became more organized until today the Tennessee Baptist Convention is the third largest disaster relief organization in the United States.

In 1979, a railroad car loaded with propane exploded in downtown Waverly and this was the start of the disaster relief effort in Tennessee. Baptist help in Waverly was in the form of financial support, but very shortly afterward, the first disaster relief equipment was purchased by the Brotherhood Department of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.

Webb said that when Hurricane Ivan struck Gulf Shores, Ala., in 2004, the TBC unit moved in and volunteers, including Webb, served more than 20,000 meals the first day.

Webb said that volunteers are not afforded any luxuries at the disaster sites and are told to bring bedding, personal medical supplies and appropriate clothing for the season.

Across the Bay, Kim Overman and several of the “skippers” of boats moored at Concord Marina were conducting a drive of a different nature. The Skippers for Schools were collecting money, backpacks, school supplies, socks and underwear for 1,000 kids displaced by the storm living north of the disaster area in central Louisiana.

Overman said, “The community was very supportive of our efforts. We received more than a hundred ‘stuffed’ backpacks, not including the two thousand donated by Goody’s. We also had a great deal of additional supplies not limited to more than two hundred spiral notebooks, two hundred packs of notebook paper, too many pencils to count, two hundred and fifty boxes of crayons.

“We also raised more than two thousand dollars to be spent directly on additional supplies. The generosity of others still astonishes me.”

Overman added the “Skippers” would set out on their mission today, Thursday, Sept. 22, to arrive in central Louisiana by Friday.

On hand for the “Skippers’” drive were Jerry and Carolyn Monkus, Overman and her husband, C.L., Joey and Garnetta Ducote.


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