Before Hurricane Sally dropped nearly four months’ worth of rain on the Florida panhandle in four days, The Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services was preparing to respond. Ten mobile feeding units (canteens), each carrying 500 meals, were deployed to Pensacola to provide food, hydration and spiritual care for those left in the wake of the storm’s destruction.
One canteen was crewed by Mike and Jeanne Flynn, a married couple who volunteer with The Salvation Army in the Clearwater area. ‘I’ve been volunteering and doing service since I was 13,’ said Jeanne while serving chilli and chatting with survivors. ‘It’s about the people and neighbours helping neighbours.’
Jeanne and Mike load up 1,000 meals to serve from their canteen every day during their deployment for Hurricane Sally, always with a smile on their face and bright energy. When asked how many disasters they have been deployed to, they both looked at each other and gave a chuckle. ‘Hurricanes Michael, Florence and Irma just to name a few.’ Jeanne stops to interact with a young lady and her child as they exchange pleasantries, making sure that the mother has some extra snacks for her kids.
Mike and Jeanne move fluidly within the tight space of the mobile kitchen. ‘We talk to them and understand their struggle. We all need help sometimes,’ says Mike. In January this year Mike was diagnosed with grade 9 prostate cancer and shortly thereafter lymphoma in his lower back. ‘It was a double cancer,’ he says. ‘I had 44 treatments.’
Jeanne interjects: ‘He never missed anything!’ Mike chuckles and finishes his thought: ‘I never let it slow me down.’
When asked what kept him motivated during such a difficult time, he smiles with gratitude in his eyes. ‘I’m blessed. I refused to let it stop me.’ Watching him work, it is obvious that it did not.
Since arriving in Pensacola, Mike and Jeanne have not stopped. The Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster Services staff and volunteers like Jeanne and Mike have helped serve the local communities with more than 25,000 meals, nearly 17,000 drinks and 20,100 snacks. Additionally, 170 clean-up kits have been given out so far and 236 people have been provided with emotional and spiritual care. Seven of those that received spiritual care gave their life to Christ while with the pastoral team.
The Salvation Army is delivering 10,000 meals a day within the Pensacola area and will continue to serve as long as necessary.
As well as responding to Hurricane Sally and readying for other responses during the second most active Atlantic hurricane season on record, The Salvation Army in the USA has also been providing emergency food, water and other essential support to communities in the west of the country affected by wildfires.
The Salvation Army continues to serve evacuees with breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks in Jackson County, Oregon, with more than 10,000 meals served to date. Emotional, social and spiritual care is also being provided.
Across the remainder of Oregon, The Salvation Army has served in excess of 22,000 meals for evacuees, firefighters and other first responders.
From reports by Eric Anderson and Jason Koenig
USA Southern and USA Western Territories