Faithful Aids Victims of Dennis; Food, Shelter and Counseling Are among the Services Religious Organizations Are Providing

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Byline: JEFF BRUMLEY

Religious groups from the First Coast and across the state are playing a central role in the cleanup and recovery from Hurricane Dennis.

Damage is being repaired and people are being fed, clothed and housed largely because of groups including The Salvation Army, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Christian Contractors Association and the Jacksonville-based Florida Baptist Convention, said Alex Amparo, director of emergency management for Volunteer Florida in Tallahassee.

The religious organizations are providing mobile feeding kitchens, recovery crews, chaplains, counselors and housing for emergency workers, said Amparo, whose job is to integrate the volunteers and assets of ministries and non-profit groups into the government's disaster relief effort.

"All in all, we're where we're at now because of the contributions of the faith-based organizations," he said. "Those are the people I am turning to when we get calls from people needing help."

Dennis roared ashore in the Panhandle and Alabama coast Sunday as a Category 3 storm. Although far less destructive than Hurricane Ivan in September, Dennis caused at least $1 billion damage and left about 250,000 without power, The Associated Press reported. About 9,000 people have registered for federal aid as a result of the storm, Florida Emergency Operations Chief Craig Fugate told AP.

The Florida Baptist Convention's disaster relief service has been a leading force for recovery in the areas affected by Dennis, Amparo said.

About 250 Baptists are working with The Salvation Army and Red Cross in feeding efforts, and their chain saw teams are scouring the region, said Fritz Wilson, the convention's disaster relief coordinator. …