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FBC Jasper member fills vital role in disaster relief administrationcomment (0)

October 29, 2009

By Grace Thornton

When Sandra Sanders, a member of First Baptist Church, Jasper, got the call from Georgia a little before lunchtime Oct. 9, the folks over there were already beyond exhausted from working long hours and multiple shifts.

So she got to packing.

“Within about three hours, we were on the road,” Sanders said of herself and Sheila Eaton of Edgil Grove Baptist Church, Jasper.

For the last five years, Sanders has taken off whenever the call came for administrative help in the midst of chaos — an ice storm in Kentucky in February, Hurricane Ike in Texas last fall and hurricanes Ivan and Katrina in Alabama in previous years.

As director of administration personnel for Alabama Baptist disaster relief, Sanders works in the affected area, keeping team projects organized and logging their status on spreadsheets.

“When there is disaster, people are really needed there to be the record keepers and report makers,” she explained. “It helps the leadership be able to keep their eyes on the big picture while we take care of the little details.”

Usually Sanders works in Alabama or out of a church at a site set up specifically for Alabama Baptist volunteers, but this time was a little different.

This time, Georgia Baptists were the ones who needed a little leg up.

So Oct. 9–15, she and Eaton set up shop in a trailer in Douglasville, Ga., that was serving as a Georgia Baptist Convention command center. There, the two processed Georgia volunteers’ work, keeping up with the job requests, sorting them and sending them out to the teams.

According to Mel Johnson, disaster relief strategist for Alabama Baptists, Sanders “represents part of disaster relief that often goes unnoticed by many.”

“Administration becomes a very important function during crisis mitigation because as teams fan out to respond to community needs, coordination quickly becomes paramount,” Johnson said. Without the help of Sanders and other administrative personnel, “all other ministries in disaster relief would not be nearly as effective.”

In administration, you don’t get the face-to-face contact with the people affected by disaster as you do if you’re on a chain-saw or mud-out team, Sanders said. But she feels called to the role, knowing that keeping things organized is a vital part of helping the victims.

“Through disaster relief work, you see firsthand how people are hurting and how so little effort on our part can make a difference in their lives,” Sanders said.

Ten years ago, she didn’t even know Southern Baptist disaster relief work existed. “Our pastor was looking for someone in our church to get involved in it, and by default, he came to my husband, Charles, and I because we were retired and had time,” Sanders said.

Eventually she trained in administration and he trained in chain saw.

They were hooked.

“Once you’ve done it, God calls you to keep doing this,” she said, noting that she now trains others to do administrative work in disaster relief. “I love to tell people about it and get them involved in it.”

She recalled the story of a 96-year-old man and his wife who came to know Christ after talking with a chain-saw team in Kentucky while she was working there.

“That was amazing,” she said. “Disaster relief can make such a big impact physically, not to mention the spiritual impact.”

As far as the work in Georgia goes, teams shut down and headed home Oct. 23, with 98 Alabama Baptist volunteers having logged 2,336 hours of service, Johnson said.

For more information about disaster relief, call Johnson at 1-800-264-1225, Ext. 389.

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