TWIN FALLS • You may be familiar with such organizations as American Red Cross and The Salvation Army, often visible by a recognizable red cross or red shield. But you might not know the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
The Baptist relief group is also dispatched to disasters across the U.S. and around the world, usually at the request of organizations such as the American Red Cross and FEMA. You can identify them by their yellow shirts in the background at disasters.
“We’re behind the scenes, and no one ever knows we’re ever there,” said Susan Brown of Twin Falls.
Brown has been a member of the Utah-Idaho Southern Baptist Disaster Relief for the past six years. She is also a member of the Magic Valley Baptist Association, which provides volunteers to the Utah-Idaho coalition. There are five associations and four directors in Idaho, according to the MVBA’s disaster relief director, Dawn Edgar. She used to work as a paramedic when she lived in California, and now she oversees 37 volunteers in the Magic Valley. There are 14 churches in the MVBA.
The disaster relief association in the Magic Valley started 10 years ago with the Hansen Baptist Fellowship taking the lead in getting involved, but the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief has been around since 1967.
“It just grew,” Edgar said.
The MVBA’s feeding unit alone has the capability to serve 5,000 meals.
Volunteers don’t have to be members of the Southern Baptist church, but they do need to be of “like faith,” Edgar said. All volunteers also have to pass a background check and complete training for their specific unit.
“As Southern Baptists our primary goal is to share the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Edgar said.
“Members are people who have a heart to serve and be Jesus’ hands and feet,” Brown said. “We’re some of the first responders; we do the work behind the scenes.”
Brown is a real estate agent, which she said provides her the flexibility to be deployed for a week at a time. She said all volunteers pay their own way and specialize in units such as feeding, shower, child care and chain saw units.
On the East Coast there are currently members of SBDR helping victims of Hurricane Sandy.
“Our unit is now on alert of possibly going back East,” said Pastor William Pyron of Hansen Baptist Fellowship, but he said it’s unlikely because there are plenty of units in the South.
This summer the chain saw unit from the Magic Valley helped with the Waldo Canyon Fire cleanup in Colorado Springs, Colo. A couple of months ago when the Trinity Ridge Fire was burning in Idaho, Edgar took a feeding team of four — two from the Magic Valley and two from the Treasure Valley.
“Most of the meals the Red Cross serves are meals cooked by us,” Edgar said.
Edgar said she would like to see families practice disaster preparedness, a course she teaches.
“People think that we live in Idaho and we don’t have disasters,” Edgar said. “Our families need to be ready and prepared to take care of themselves.”