USA: OBI aids search and rescue teams
BEAUMONT, Texas - Operation Blessing staff is on-scene helping feed first responders aiding rescue efforts in Hurricane Ike's wake.
OBI and partner, Mercy Chef's mobile kitchen is helping feed the National Guard, Texas Rangers, Wildlife and Fisheries personnel as well as local police as well as OBI staff and volunteers after a request from Texas state officials.
In addition, OBI received an all-access pass to devastated areas by government officials.
While at the State EOC Herrington secured a letter to use for "re-entry" and to wave weight and permit restrictions for all vehicles and equipment that are responding to the disaster within the State of Texas.
Herrington also met with the Texas Department of Transportation to confirm "in-routes" for OBI and partner, Samaritan's Purse, as well as distributed entry and route information to all other OBI partners in the faith-based disaster relief agencies in the Christian Relief Cooperative.
Right now, OBI is appealing for help from its donors and partners for cash donations in order to bring in desperately-needed aid for victims.
"We need cash donations to finance relief efforts," said OBI president, Bill Horan. "We have full access to the restricted areas but we need the funds to help fill our trucks with more relief."
When Hurricane Ike roared ashore late Friday, Operation Blessings disaster relief teams were already poised and ready to help.
For Trudi Pittman, evacuating to escape Hurricane Ike was not an option.
The mother of two didn't have the extra money to leave and fleeing with a family member was not feasible.
"My sister didn't have enough room in her car to take us, not even the kids," Pittman said. "We all crammed in the closet to get away from the storm."
For Pittman, and 3 million other residents in the region, starting over means facing massive cleanup efforts, all without power.
OBI's motor convoy of disaster relief staff, mobile command center, mobile kitchen, 20-ton crane, skid steer loader, construction trailer and truckloads of roofing supplies, food, water and relief supplies, left a staging area near Dallas Sunday morning headed to Beaumont.
The 9.5-hour drive led to Cathedral in the Pines Church where OBI workers set up a command center and volunteer headquarters that will serve the local area.
"Our primary mission is to house, feed and coordinate volunteer teams much the same as we did in Slidell following hurricane Katrina," Horan said. "Later this week we will be sending volunteer teams out to repair roofs, clear debris and help in a variety of ways as directed by local emergency management."
Today, three additional OB tractor trailers will arrive to Beaumont with more food, relief supplies, tools and equipment to facilitate our volunteer crews.
"The situation changes every day," Horan said. "This storm is at least as bad as Katrina and much more widespread."
Two teams of 10 people are ready and poised to go out into the communities to aid the victims. Already, OBI provided aid to 2,000 evacuees staying at a local Wal Mart by setting up shower facilities.
Before the storm, the team pre-staging more than 33,000 pounds of disaster relief supplies including nonperishable food and ready-to-eat meals for immediate response,
OBI arrived in Texas Thursday via New Orleans, where they spent the last week assisting residents of St. Bernard Parish following hurricane Gustav. There, they provided 5,600 free hot meals for residents, managed distribution of 19 tons of ice, assisted with debris removal, and distributed 255,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies including food, water, hygiene kits and disposable diapers.