Tennessee Valley Baptist Association
Thursday, April 02, 2020

Rhea County Men Feed Thousands of Florida Hurricane Victims


Rhea Herald News

Original Article from 2005

Posted Online July 8, 2010


Four Rhea County men recently helped feed thousands of people in Pompano Beach, Fla., following the destructive winds of Hurricane Wilma and were thanked in person by President George Bush. Don Pickrell, head of Disaster Relief for the Tennessee Valley Baptist Association in Rhea County, led a four-man team to Leesburg on Oct. 24 that included Rhea Countians Mike Breeden,Tim Cruver and Al King. 

Hurricane Wilma, a category 3 storm, roared out of Florida Oct. 24 after damaging buildings and leveling trees along the highly populated East Coast corridor, stretching from Vero Beach to Miami. Millions were left without electricity.

The four men from Rhea County worked with about 1,500 other volunteers with Southern Baptist Disaster Relief. The group stayed at First Baptist Church of Pompano Beach, where they cooked and served meals at lunch and dinner.

"There were usually about 2,000 people in line to get food," Pickrell said, adding that several thousand more meals were delivered in seven Red Cross trucks to individual homes for both lunch and dinner. The food, according to Pickrell, was so good that those who came back for other meals were very complimentary. And it included an excellent variety, he said: lasagna, barbecued pork, barbecued chicken, turkey and gravy, chicken and gravy, green beans, lima beans, peas and fruit.

The team cooked the food at one end of the church's parking lot and served the meals at the other end, Pickrell said, noting that "we have ovens and cookers that hold up to 60 gallons of food" and can feed up to 50,000 people a day during two shifts. 

He said neither he nor anyone in his group knew Bush was coming to the site until the president arrived. He said Bush thanked him and the three other Rhea County volunteers personally and also expressed thanks for the Tennessee Baptist Convention Disaster Relief operation for doing an excellent job. The president was accompanied by his brother, Gov. Jeb Bush, during the visit, Pickrell noted. 

Cruver said the Tennessee Baptist unit was picked by the Secret Service as "the best overall feeding unit they had ever seen." President Bush, Pickrell said, "spent about a half hour talking to Southern Baptist volunteers" after the Secret Service inspected the feeding unit.

The Southern Baptist feeding unit, he noted, will be in Pompano Beach for about another two weeks.

Hurricane victims who come to the Southern Baptist site in Pompano Beach can get as many plates of food for family members as they need, Pickrell said, noting that he gave eight meals to one man. 

As head of Disaster Relief for the Tennessee Valley Baptist Association for the past five years, Pickrell has "served the Lord" at many places following widespread catastrophic events. He said he was in Indonesia doing water purification after the tsunami hit earlier this year and that since September, he and his team have been "on 63 days of response." 

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief teams, he noted, have prepared and served over eight million meals for victims of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma.

Pickrell said there is still a lot of work to be done in Florida and Louisiana and that anyone who wants to be trained for volunteer service should contact him at 775-7094.


                                                                     Members of the Tennessee Valley Baptist Association prepare food for victims of

                                                                                        Hurricane Wilma in Pompano Beach, Fla. Clockwise, from the left are: Tim Cruver

                                                                                      of Dayton with his big spoon, Lou Mulsound of Knoxville with the canned goods,

                                                                                                           and another Tennessee volunteer helping prepare the food.