The Ellis Christian Disaster Relief Team’s purpose since its startup in May 2006 is to mobilize trailer units, a large tent and general support to victims where disaster has struck.

“Our organization is trained to provide assistance to disaster victims in four areas,” said Barry Bensmiller, president of the Ellis Christian Disaster Relief Team, which is an extended ministry of the Ellis Baptist Association. “One of the most useful tools we have is boxes. We will go into a disaster area, like a flood, for example, where water is standing at least 3 feet high in a house, but what most people fail to realize is that water has rushed through sewers and cemeteries and is filled with filth and disease.”  

Bensmiller said boxes are vital in helping victim families to gather as much of their possessions as possible and to clean and sterilize them and wrap them in packing paper and get them in storage.  

“For the year 2007, we were sent out to 15 different flood areas,” team member Cindi Wesch of Midlothian said, noting that year’s heavy rainfalls in spring and early summer.

“Most of our resources are donated,” Bensmiller said, noting that Rock/Tenn Company, a specialty box company in Waxahachie, has been generous in its donation of new boxes, while the Waxahachie Daily Light has donated blank rolls of newsprint.

“This paper is perfect for packing dishes and other cherished possessions that have been recovered in homes in disaster areas because it has no ink on it and is easy to work with,” Bensmiller said.

Another resource is a large tent the team uses.

“The tent is about 40 feet by 60 feet and it is set up at a disaster area and is used for shelter for victims, a feeding area and registration center – and even used as sleeping quarters,” Bensmiller said.

“One of the greatest functions the team has is a crisis response team,” said Larry Johnson, who has served as executive director of the Ellis Baptist Association for 24 years. “Victims in a disaster area are traumatized and don’t know which way to turn and sometimes the best support the disaster relief team can give is just moral and spiritual support.”  

The Ellis Christian Disaster Relief Team is highly organized, with a detailed procedure that is carefully followed during disaster. In addition to coordinating deployment of units and members, the organization conducts a survey of members’ skills, gifts and talents and provides regular, up-to-date training.

“We hold training sessions in various places in the area,” Bensmiller said, noting a February session will be held at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Ennis.

“Our first concern is to see the needs of children are met as well as those of elderly, ill and disabled people who need special facilities, diets, transportation and recreation,” Bensmiller said.

The organization works with other disaster relief agencies, including the American Red Cross, Volunteer Organization Active in Disaster, local governmental entities, the Salvation Army, the Texas Baptist Men and local churches.

“We always assess every situation and work in areas where we are most needed to prevent duplicating services with another organization,” said Bensmiller, noting that one of the most vital functions the team performs is to provide companionship to people who have been displaced and are unfamiliar with their new surroundings, community, service and stores.

The Ellis Christian Disaster Relief Team also sets up and organizes transportation banks, cleanup, security, communication center, repair, temporary roofing and boarding up of windows, and mobilizing dump trucks, boats, planes and other tools that might be needed during a disaster.

“Right now, we have several needs,” Bensmiller said, listing packing tape, another 6-feet by 14-feet enclosed trailer, boxes and an 18-wheeler box trailer to transport boxes to major disaster areas.

“We’re actually the only organization of its kind in the country,” Bensmiller said. “And we always welcome volunteers to help as well as donations.”  

For further information, e-mail bbensmiller@swbell.net or call 817-919-2508.

E-mail Paul at paul.gauntt@wninews.com