LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As areas of Florida continue recovery efforts after Hurricane Michael, a group of East Texans have arrived to help shoulder some of the everyday burdens.
Volunteers with the Southern Baptists of Texas (SBTC) have been deployed to Port St. Joe, FL to help feed victims and relief workers, and around six churches from the Lufkin-area are a part of the group.
Beth Wilbanks is a member of Harmony Hill Baptist Church in Lufkin. She spoke with KTRE’s Khyati Patel via Facetime as her mission group handed out free meals Thursday afternoon.
“The SBTC has a disaster relief mission. We have a number of people from baptist churches with us,” said Wilbanks.
Port St. Joe is only about a half-hour south of Mexico Beach, where meteorologists believe Michael made landfall as a Category 4 hurricane. Wilbanks said although Michael made landfall two weeks ago, the area still looks as though it happened yesterday.
“We just been out here cooking, and Red Cross has been taking it out,” Wilbanks said. "We see a lot of damage still, there are still a lot of line crews trying to get electricity. There are houses damaged beyond repair -- many of them -- and trees down of course; boats and cars that look like toy ones that somebody put anywhere.”
The group Wilbanks is with left Lufkin Tuesday and arrived Wednesday morning. Since then, the group has setup their mobile kitchen and has cooked more than 1,500 meals; that number is much smaller than the 10,000 meals she expected the group would cook on a daily basis.
Wilbanks said she expected to stay in Florida for the next two weeks, when another group from SBTC will arrive to replace them. Southern Baptists of Texas is part of a broader network of church groups in different states which will continue to rotate providing relief effort, similar to what the group did for victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017.
“I love God, and I want to share him with other people, and this is a good way to do it,” Wilbanks added. “We want to show people compassion just like Jesus did and that’s why we’re here.”