Southern Baptists Stepping Up Efforts to Help Appalachians Stricken by Unemployment, Poverty and Drug Abuse

In the Appalachians, unemployment, poverty and drug abuse remain rampant. But Southern Baptists are stepping up their efforts to help residents impacted by the stark conditions.

They are opening an Appalachia Ministry Center that will distribute food and other supplies throughout the central Appalachian region of eastern Kentucky, West Virginia and southern Ohio.

Send Relief, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board, is opening the Ashland-based Appalachia Ministry Center so that the SBC will have a base from which to get help to the needy in the region.

The first major initiative is planned for April 28, when volunteers will pack 100,000 meals to be distributed throughout Appalachia.

Appalachia Ministry Center Director Rob Allen said it will take about 500 volunteers, each working two-hour shifts, to accomplish the feat. Allen is reaching out to churches in the Appalachian region and beyond for manpower.

“It’s going to take a lot of people and we’re excited about it,” Allen said. “It’s something we think we can rally the community around.”

While working with area ministries, churches and community leaders, the Appalachia Ministry Center will serve as a central point to respond to disasters. As a central facility, the center can stage, store and route vehicles filled with supplies and food into communities that need them.

“This is a large-scale operation that can truly make a difference in the Appalachian region,” said Kentucky Baptist Convention Executive Director Paul Chitwood. “People in the mountains are dealing with dire circumstances and Southern Baptists feel compelled to come alongside them.”

The Appalachia Ministry Center will work from two massive warehouses. One is a converted gymnasium that also has a large kitchen, offices and overnight rooms. The other, an even larger one, is under construction.

Send Relief President David Melber said Ashland is a central location from which to quickly respond to distressed communities in Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.

“You can get right on the interstate from the property,” Melber said. “It’s a great location.”

The twofold purpose of the ministry center is to engage the community and equip the church, marketing director Greg Teffertiller said.

Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press