When a natural or other type disaster strikes a community, relief officials are tasked with knowing how much aid its residents need. Part of the aid consists of food, of course, for either survivors or rescue workers.

Officials of the Alabama Baptist Association have at their disposal massive 57-foot-long mobile feeding units, but these are often just too big for the scale of the emergency.

Sometimes smaller is better.

To that end, the purchase of “minuteman feeding units” is the object of fundraising throughout District 3 of the association.

Each county in District 3 — Cleburne, Calhoun, Clay, Talladega and Randolph — is charged with raising some of the money toward the new feeding unit, said Ty Corban, District 3 coordinator for Alabama Disaster Relief for the Alabama Baptist Association.

Corban said his responsibilities include raising money for, designing and building the first of two or three smaller feeding units, which he has dubbed the “minuteman feeding unit.” The mobile kitchen will be housed in an 18-foot trailer that can be hauled by a ¾-ton pickup truck, he said. Depending on what the association decides to put in the unit, it could cost from $30,000 to $50,000, he said. If it includes griddles, grills and ovens that would push the cost toward $50,000, he said.

In Cleburne County the goal is $7,000, said Larry Riddle, director of missions for Cleburne Baptist Association. Volunteers are canvassing the town visiting businesses, he said.

“We already have some corporate gifts,” Riddle said.

Corban said county Baptist associations’ disaster relief groups respond to probably 10 times more small emergencies where the number of volunteers and the length of the response needed can’t justify the cost of bringing in large feeding trucks.

For instance, volunteers with denomination’s Cleburne Disaster Relief organizationspent two weeks in Sardis City, clearing driveways, cutting trees off houses and clearing roads after storms struck that section of the state at the end of last month.

“It’s very humbling,” said Sammy Freeman, coordinator for Cleburne Disaster Relief. “You don’t know what you’ve got until you see what others have lost.”

Twenty-five Cleburne County volunteers worked with volunteers from other surrounding counties to clear 276 homes and yards in two weeks, said Riddle.  

Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Boaz served as the host church for the volunteers. The church served 1,000 meals a day for two weeks as the volunteers worked, said Sonia Lipham, a volunteer with Cleburne Disaster Relief.

“If you’re trying to do that in a church fellowship hall, it’s tough,” Riddle said.

An added problem is that the churches in the area of a disaster can also be destroyed, Riddle said.

But deploying the big feeding unit to a response of that scale would be an inefficient use of the state Baptist Association’s disaster relief capability, which relies on donations to complete its missions, Riddle said. Those big units, which Baptists have sent to emergencies including Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans,  Corban said, can serve anywhere from 10,000 to 25,000 meals a day. But they’re expensive to move and set up.

“They cost about to $10,000 just to move,” Corban said.

Riddle said the effort to equip the association with smaller vehicles is important because of the situations the volunteers go into. The roads are oftentimes closed because of damage, the homes may not be habitable or have power to do any cooking. The mobile kitchens serve not only the volunteers but the first responders including police and firefighters, Corban said.

Donations can be mailed to Cleburne Baptist Association, Disaster Relief Feeding Unit, District 3, 903 Ross Street, Heflin, AL 36264


Staff Writer Laura Camper: 256-235-3545 or, in Heflin, 256-463-2872. On Twitter @LCamper_Star.