FBC Scottsboro’s ‘Colonel’ leads relief volunteers with precisioncomment (0)
September 1, 2011
By Leigh Pritchett
Feeding a large number of hungry disaster relief workers is an enormous task.
It requires planning menus, procuring food items, lining up preparers, anticipating condiments, scheduling a cleanup crew, enlisting drivers and delivering the meals to the feeding site — all on schedule.
For this, military precision is almost a must.
Enter Larry H. “Mac” McKinnon.
The retired sergeant first class has 36 years of service in the Army and Army National Guard. And though he spent years as an enlisted man, his ability to organize, mobilize “troops” and execute a plan has, in civilian life, garnered him the nickname “Colonel.”
When storms swept through Alabama on April 27, McKinnon’s church — First Baptist, Scottsboro — responded on two fronts immediately.
The Tennessee River Baptist Association church served as a center for collecting and distributing donated items for displaced people. It also assisted Happy Home Baptist Church, Henagar, in Sand Mountain Baptist Association with feeding disaster relief volunteers working in that area.
A certain number of meals needed to be prepared at First, Scottsboro, and then delivered to Happy Home Baptist to feed the volunteers. Some meals also had to be taken to volunteers working in remote areas.
Kevin Wilburn, pastor of First, Scottsboro, felt that McKinnon’s military background particularly gifted him for the task of feeding an army.
“I knew if I got him, I got M.M., his wife. So that’s why I did it,” a chuckling Wilburn said of getting McKinnon to lead the effort.
McKinnon said it was a tremendous responsibility to prepare 80 meals three times a day and deliver them to where they were needed when they were expected.
In the early days of this ministry, “we were feeding National Guard folks, too,” Wilburn added.
McKinnon said the final tally on meals prepared at First, Scottsboro, was more than 1,000.
“It was a pretty big effort by a lot of people,” he said.
Plus his wife was at his side. “She was my right hand in the kitchen,” McKinnon said.
For any given meal, 30 or more volunteers were needed to cook, deliver, clean up and take care of administrative tasks, McKinnon said.
Some volunteers were from First, Scottsboro; others were from other churches and the community.
Also “Calvary Baptist Church (Scottsboro) helped us deliver food,” Wilburn said.
Individuals, businesses and churches donated items to feed disaster relief crews, while First, Scottsboro, purchased some. But McKinnon said the desserts — those “many delicious desserts” — came from the community and First, Scottsboro, members.
While the food service volunteers worked on a rotating schedule, McKinnon was on-site constantly.
“Somebody has to be,” he explained. “That keeps the continuity going.”
During this effort, his day began about 4 a.m. Before food service volunteers began arriving, McKinnon planned menus, listed jobs necessary for preparing each meal and decided who would do which task and what was needed to complete the meal, right down to providing relief workers with sanitizer for washing their hands and plenty of liquids for hydrating. His crew also sent extra food to Happy Home, to make certain there was enough for everyone.
He even made charts that allowed the food service volunteers to see “the big picture” and know what was transpiring at any given moment.
“He does the right thing the right way to get people mobilized to serve,” Wilburn said. “He tried to let everyone have a part in what’s happening.”
Each day, McKinnon’s food service platoon prepared a traditional hot breakfast; a sandwich lunch with fruit and dessert; and a sit-down-type evening meal.
“We really tried to fix some really good meals,” he said.
When all was quiet on the kitchen front, McKinnon finally would go home.
“Generally my day would end about 8 o’clock that night,” he said.
Nonetheless McKinnon’s 16-hour days did not close before he verified that he had a head count for the next day’s meals, as well as all that was needed to prepare them.
Yes, the days were long and filled to the brim with activity. But McKinnon — whose military service took him to such places as Europe, Panama and Ecuador — counted it a blessing to be able to assist in this way.
“It was a personal pleasure to me to be able to serve my community,” he said.