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Locals to help feed hurricane victims

Ken Johnston, team leader for the deployment to New Jersey, left, discusses the logistics of the trip with Jimmy Harris, disaster relief coordinator. Harris is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Covington and Johnston attends First Baptist Church in Social Circle. - Special Photo

Ken Johnston, team leader for the deployment to New Jersey, left, discusses the logistics of the trip with Jimmy Harris, disaster relief coordinator. Harris is a member of Calvary Baptist Church in Covington and Johnston attends First Baptist Church in Social Circle. - Special Photo

COVINGTON -- Volunteers from Newton and Rockdale counties affiliated with the Stone Mountain Baptist Association are heading to Southern New Jersey to provide disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy.

The first wave of 20 volunteers with Georgia Unit 11-F, a feeding unit, departed from a staging area at Calvary Baptist Church in Covington Wednesday morning. Newton County churches represented include Calvary, Porterdale and Solid Rock Baptist churches. Larry Cheek, a missionary with the group, said Rockdale volunteers are expected to be part of the teams, as well.

"We have been asked to be prepared to start serving 15,000 meals per day beginning on Friday," said Jimmy Harris, disaster relief team leader for the first responder unit. The team's exact destination was not known at the time of their departure, but they expected to get more information on down the road.

Another team will deploy Tuesday to relieve the first responders, and additional deployments are expected Nov. 11, 16 and 21.

Georgia Unit 11-F started in the early 1990s and first deployed to floods in Albany, Ga. Its last response was to Hurricane Ike in 2008 in the Gulf Coast of Texas. The unit played a major role in Hurricane Katrina, serving more than 800,000 meals to victims along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

"Southern Baptists are the third largest disaster relief organization in the country, right behind the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross," said Cheek. "It is quite a challenge maintaining the equipment and being ready for deployment within a 24-hour period. Donations are needed locally to support our unit. We are responsible for the maintenance, insurance and repairs to our equipment. We rely completely on gifts from churches and individuals to disaster relief."

The unit keeps 10,000 meals worth of non-perishable food on hand in a Covington warehouse so they can deploy quickly in the event of an emergency.

The Stone Mountain Baptist Association is asking the community to pray for victims of the hurricane as well as volunteers. Also, the association asks that churches collect an offering this Sunday designated for disaster relief. Churches and individuals can give by making checks payable to Stone Mountain Baptist Association, designated for "disaster relief," and mailing to P.O. Box 911, Conyers, GA 30012. Online donations can be made at www.stonemountainbaptistassociation.org.

Stone Mountain Baptist Association includes more than 90 churches, and serves Newton, Rockdale, DeKalb, Henry and Walton counties.