President Trump, Pastor Jim Pennington (center) and North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (left) distribute meals Sept. 19 at a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief site in New Bern, N.C. Screen capture from WRAL.com
Southern Baptist disaster relief volunteers meet with President Trump during tour of Hurricane Florence damage
NEW BERN, N.C. (BP) – President Trump spent approximately an hour Sept. 19 at a Southern Baptist Disaster Relief site in New Bern, N.C., helping volunteers distribute meals and greeting victims of Hurricane Florence."I was literally thinking" the president's visit would last 15-20 minutes, said Jim Pennington, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, the congregation hosting the SBDR site. But Trump "just settled in. He started meeting people and asking questions, looking people in the eye and saying, 'Tell me about your house.'"
Since Florence made landfall Sept. 14, SBDR volunteers have served more than 46,000 meals in North and South Carolina through the work of more than 400 volunteers. The storm dumped more than 30 inches of rain in some locations and has caused at least 37 deaths, according to media reports.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper also visited Temple along with Trump.
"As a church, as a ministry, as a relief site," Trump's visit was "fantastic," Pennington told Baptist Press, because "it's given us some high profile where we can ask people to help with resources and finances."
Temple was among nine SBDR feeding locations in North Carolina Sept. 19, according to a report from the North American Mission Board, which coordinates multi-state SBDR responses. Two feeding units were operating in South Carolina.
SendRelief, NAMB's compassion ministry arm, has delivered other disaster relief supplies to the churches hosting feeding sites, including 65 pastor packs with generators, chainsaws and other ministry supplies. Some 720 "crisis buckets" have been distributed to help homeowners do their own cleanups.
"We're just incredibly thankful that the president was able to experience firsthand serving meals to those in the drive-through line," SendRelief President David Melber said, "and also to see Southern Baptist volunteers in action doing what they do best."