Spring break volunteers break in new SBTC DR “food truck” kitchen

ROCKPORT “It’s a groundswell,” exclaimed Wally Leyerle, Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief (DR) associate, of the spring break 2018 response of student and church groups from across the nation to Texas areas still recovering from Hurricane Harvey.

Between NAMB’s GenSend and other church and student groups, at least 700 volunteers came to help rebuild at sites from Rockport up to the greater Houston area to Beaumont.

“It’s been largely a church-to-church or student organization-to-church response,” Leyerle said, adding that SBTC DR has stepped in where necessary to facilitate the effort.

“It was happening on its own, and we said, OK, let’s organize this so it can happen better,” he said, admitting there was “a ton of stuff” going on, more than could be readily tracked.

“It’s definitely a God thing, not a man thing,” Leyerle said.

In one example, Coastal Oaks Baptist Church in Rockport reported that an expected 80-100 volunteers from several churches were coming to work in March. Meal preparation would be a challenge, one that Leyerle and Scottie Stice, SBTC DR director, decided could be met by using the newest SBTC DR kitchen, a design also utilized by Oklahoma DR crews.

“It’s a Cadillac,” said SBTC DR volunteer Ronnie Roark, praising the self-contained trailer unit that resembles a food truck. Roark supervised the kitchen’s inaugural deployment at Coastal Oaks, where volunteers cranked out breakfasts and dinners for crews staying at the church and working on rebuild efforts.

The new kitchen functions well with three to six volunteers and can produce from 300-700 meals per day, Leyerle said. It features a grill, stove, oven, and is designed for people to walk up and get their food.  

The DR “food truck” arrived at its home—Roark’s church, Salem Sayers Baptist in Adkins, 20 miles east of San Antonio—only a few weeks before the Rockport deployment. Members kept “pretty busy outfitting it with the basic stuff,” Roark said, adding that 8-10 Salem Sayers members underwent training in DR feeding March 10 in Pflugerville.

“They got their training on a Saturday and were put to work the next week,” Roark said. 

The team and trailer “served well,” said Andy Barlow, Coastal Oaks associate pastor. “It seemed like they had done it a hundred times.”

The churches bringing volunteers reimbursed Coastal Oaks for food, which the Roarks and crew cooked and served, their duties demanding daily runs to the nearby H.E.B. grocery store.

“It never failed that someone at the store would come up and give us their thanks and appreciation, in our yellow DR shirts,” Roark said, calling it a “humbling experience to know what we are doing is making a difference.”

“It was a blessing through and through,” Roark’s wife, Connie, added.

The March 12-16 Rockport effort, where volunteers cleaned out structures, rebuilt fences, replaced drywall, repaired interiors and did yard work, involved groups from Glenview Baptist in Haltom City, Collision Church in Alpine, Murphy Baptist in Murphy, LifeWay Fellowship of Killeen and Central Baptist of Round Rock. 

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