Local volunteer group cooks 42,000 meals for victims of Hurricane Harvey


While all eyes have been on Irma, more than a million people are still trying to get back on their feet after Hurricane Harvey.

More than two weeks ago, Hurricane Harvey slammed into Southeast Texas, dumping more than 50 inches of rain in some parts.

The storm killed 70 people and forced 13 million to leave their homes. One of those groups just came back to the Tri-Cities.

A team of 30 volunteers from Sullivan Baptist Association Disaster Relief went down to Sugarland, Texas. They took a tractor trailer and all of their commercial cooking equipment with them. In just five days, they cooked 42,000 meals for victims.

After flood waters swept through Southeast Texas, millions found themselves stranded in shelters. While many volunteers focused on rescue efforts, this group from Northeast Tennessee made it their mission to feed those in need.

"We cook like mom taught us how to cook," director Jim Ramey said.

The Sullivan Baptist Association Disaster Relief team arrived in Texas, prepared with a trailer full of kitchen supplies. They set up under a tent, cooking 9,000 meals a day.

"We did beef stew, we did chicken, we did hamburger steak patties," Ramey said.

And this group takes pride in the food they make.

"When we cook the meals, we cook the meals with love," volunteer Frank Waldo said. "We really try to make them taste good."

All of the food was packed up and given to the Red Cross to hand out. But Ramey said they did get the chance to meet some of the victims, who they helped.

"You can be tired and they come along," he said. "They brought us gifts to show their appreciation. One Sunday school class drew thank you cards for us. That was awesome."

Waldo said he will never forget their personal stories.

"Some people, their homes are gone forever. Other people, when the water goes down, they're able to return to their homes," he said. "So it affects each individual differently, but it's still the same thing. They were in that disaster and they have lost."

Both men have seen the worst, helping victims after natural disasters, including Hurricane Katrina.

"The look of fear in their face, that fear that you see is in every victim that we see," Ramey said.

So they hope to bring comfort to those who have lost, with some comfort food.

"This is what we're supposed to do," Ramey said. "We're supposed to be God's feeding hands."

The Red Cross pays for all of the food that is prepared. Ramey said they left their kitchen behind in Texas for another group of volunteers to use.

So once they pick it up, they will decide if they can help Irma victims next.

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