Allen Watts, Harry Floate

Allen Watts, right, a volunteer with the Mississippi Baptist Relief ministry, stirs chili Tuesday on the grounds of North Greenwood Baptist Church while Harry Floate checks the temperature.

A group of volunteers set up an emergency kitchen Tuesday on the grounds of North Greenwood Baptist Church to cook meals for those affected by a severe storm Saturday.

About a dozen volunteers, who came from various towns across the state, are with the Mississippi Baptist Relief ministry, which is  part of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.

Gene Raymond Johnson of Lumberton, the mass feeding coordinator for the convention, said he and the other volunteers arrived in Greenwood Tuesday morning.

Their mission was to prepare 500 dinners consisting of chili-mac, field peas and sliced peaches for Delta residents who lacked access to food or power due to Saturday’s storm, Johnson said.

The meals would be delivered via emergency response vehicles by the American Red Cross.

Some volunteers cooked in the North Greenwood Baptist parking lot under pitched tents; others cooked in the church’s kitchen.

Johnson said he’s unsure how long he and the other volunteers will stay in Greenwood preparing meals. “This situation is very fluid,” he said.

The volunteers will stay in the church’s Recreational Outreach Center.

David McCovey, an emergency response vehicle operator for the Red Cross, sat in the back of his vehicle while he waited for the meals to be finished. He’d later be driving to various locations throughout Tallahatchie County, such as Sumner and Tutwiler, to deliver the dinners. Earlier in the day, McCovey said he had already delivered 500 sandwich lunches to residents in need in the county.

Joe Young, a pastor at Calvary Chapel in Parchman, played a pivotal role in organizing the kitchen.

Following Saturday’s storm, Young toured the Delta, assessing the damage in order to produce a report for the Mississippi Baptist Disaster Relief ministry to see which areas would need food.

He said towns in Bolivar, Sunflower and Tallahatchie counties received significant damage,  such as train cars blown off a track in Sumner,  damaged or  destroyed homes, and loss of power.

Young said the Red Cross contacted him Monday night to organize an emergency kitchen but then called  Tuesday morning to say the kitchen would not be funded. At that point the volunteers had already arrived in Greenwood and set up shop to begin cooking food.  “This was higher up than anything local,” Young said.

He made some calls, including one to the Mississippi Food Network. He said North Greenwood Baptist’s pastor, Dr.  Jim Phillips, called him later to inform him that the volunteers were cooking.

Phillips said the Mississippi Food Network came through with a grant to allow the kitchen to operate.

For the time being, for however long they’re needed, the volunteers are focused on providing for those in need. “Besides helping out our fellow man, our motto is, ‘A cup of water in Jesus’ name,’” Johnson said.

Contact Gerard Edic at 581-7239 or gedic@gwcommonwealth.com.

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