Used Here During
2011 Tornadoes Is
Now In New Jersey
BY KEN LITTLE
Jim Ramey's calling has taken him across the country in the service of others.
For the foreseeable future, Ramey and others from the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry will mobilize near the frigid Jersey Shore to aid in the massive relief effort associated with Superstorm Sandy, which struck the region last week.
Ramey, a Sullivan County resident who serves as president of the Greene County AIDNET organization that aided hundreds of survivors following the April 2011 tornadoes, was at McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey on Monday preparing a move to Essex County, one of the hard-hit areas of the state.
Many people still have no electricity or other basic services.
A hot meal would be very welcome.
That's where Ramey's "feeding unit" from the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry comes in.
After the tornadoes that ravaged sections of Greene County in April 2011, the same mobile kitchen now in New Jersey was set up by First Baptist Church in Greeneville and for several weeks fed volunteer workers and anyone else in need of a warm meal.
Ramey is in charge of the feeding unit working in New Jersey.
Back in 2011, many people in Greene County were sorry to see the mobile kitchen move on.
'GOOD QUALITY FOOD'
"We try to really put out good quality food that people enjoy. That's our goal, to have a good product," Ramey said Monday in a telephone interview.
Serving a hot meal for someone whose home has been destroyed or who has not had electricity for a week can be a big morale booster, Ramey said.
"Anyone that walks up and asks for a meal, they will receive it, no questions," he said.
Meals prepared by the volunteers can be distributed by the American Red Cross and other groups to those who need it most across a disaster-stricken area.
The setup overseen by Ramey is capable of producing thousands of meals a day.
The Baptist relief group left Tennessee Friday night and arrived Saturday in New Jersey.
Volunteers have been housed at McGuire Air Force Base in northern New Jersey since their arrival. Essex County is just west of New York City.
"I have our feeding unit here, and we're waiting on a site to go set up to feed meals to those displaced by the storm," Ramey said. "We should get our marching orders (Monday)."
Each disaster presents different challenges, Ramey said.
In this case, a cold front is forecast to move into the storm-affected area this week.
"I came outside, and it's extremely cold and the wind is blowing (at) 20 to 25 mph," Ramey said during the phone interview.
EACH DISASTER 'DIFFERENT'
"They're all different. The needs are there, but each circumstance is different," he said.
Along with the feeding unit, the Baptist group also brought along a laundry unit and a shower unit.
The volunteers will remain as long as their services are needed, Ramey said.
"It's open-ended. We don't set a date (to leave)," he said.
Ramey became well acquainted with Greene Countians during the weeks immediately following the 2011 tornadoes.
By June 2011, he was chosen by community leaders to be president of the re-activated AIDNET of Greene County group. He stayed on as president of AIDNET, which continues to meet quarterly.
Ramey's work here will not be forgotten, said Wendy Peay, a member of the AIDNET board of directors and executive director of United Way of Greene County.
AIDNET WORK RECALLED
"He was kind of the glue that held it together," Peay said Monday. "He is a very calm-in-the-face-of-the-storm kind of guy."
Ramey's own home, in Sullivan County near Fall Branch, was damaged in the April 2011 storms, but he made helping Greene County survivors of the tornadoes his priority.
"What strikes me is, he's not even from Greene County, and he spent hundreds of hours in Greene County working on AIDNET," Peay said.
"His experience with disaster relief is just incredible. His experience was invaluable for us."
Ramey said Monday that he was able to retire at a relatively young age, and now devotes much of his time to disaster relief efforts through the Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief Ministry.
Tennessee Baptist Disaster Relief is a part of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief program of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"It's what I'm called to do and be a part of. God allowed me to retire early to do this," Ramey said.