Hillcrest Baptist’s new minister helping victims of Katrina

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 2, 2005

In a month, the Rev. Jim George is slated to become the pastor at Hillcrest Baptist Church. But those four weeks look to drag on for a while.

&uot;We have to drive for about an hour to get cell phone reception,&uot; said George, who along with 58 other members of the Virginia Baptist Mission Board is helping to operate a disaster relief unit in Picayune, Miss., an area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. The team, activated by the Southern Baptist Convention, handles feeding, cleanup, water purification, showers and counseling to victims.

&uot;Trees are down, on home and on roads,&uot; said George, the Board’s disaster relief coordinator. &uot;We started feeding today, and we’ll probably feed five or six thousand.&uot;

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The feeding unit brought in about 20,000 meals, paid for by the Red Cross, and its water purification unit can process six gallons a minute. Some volunteers help with feeding, some go out with chainsaws to aid cleanup, and others work in counseling, going up and down lines in feeding centers to console and encourage victims.

&uot;One thing a lot of people ask is if we can get them information about their friends and family, and there’s no way to get information, so that’s frustrating. There hasn’t been a lot of loss of life in (Picayune), but health concerns are the biggest thing. They’re trying to play how to get out the people who are ill, and evacuate them to another hospital.

&uot;But it could have been worse,&uot; he said. &uot;These are very resilient people. They’re tired, they’re hungry, they’re hot, but they’re doing the best they can. They want help and help’s starting to get there, but it takes time. They know it’s a long-term recovery, but they’re determined to recover.&uot;

Right now, his move to Hillcrest, scheduled for Oct. 1, doesn’t mean much.

&uot;I was hoping to be thinking about that right now,&uot; he said, &uot;but this got on the front burner. I was looking forward to coming to the Suffolk area, but that’s after we get back from here.&uot;