Pasco man helps cook, provide chaplain services at Oso mudslide site

MATT BENOIT MURROW NEWS SERVICEApril 13, 2014 

A Pasco man recently returned to the Tri-Cities after spending 10 days cooking hundreds of meals for recovery workers at the site of the recent deadly Oso mudslide.

Jim Vines, 73, said he arrived at the Darrington community center at 4 a.m. each day, cooking breakfasts and lunches before assuming chaplain duties.

He estimates Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers cooked as many as 500 to 700 meals a day, and despite getting an estimate on how many meals to cook, were sometimes forced to cook even more food, or keep their kitchen open longer for workers finishing later.

During his first five days in Darrington, Vines said it rained. Hard.

"It's kind of hard to cook when it's raining like that," he said, "but we did it."

The March 22 slide killed 36 people and seven remain missing.

The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief group dispatched at least 40 volunteers, working through the Red Cross, to help feed recovery workers, provide chaplaincy and operate a mobile shower and laundry unit, said Bill Grams of Kennewick, head of the organization's disaster relief efforts.

Vines said he was one of four Tri-City volunteers.

The first week of response was typical of any disaster, Grams said, with difficult communication as multiple agencies responded to the area at the same time.

Operations ran smoothly after three days, he said, and Baptist volunteers cooked breakfasts, lunches and dinners from the Darrington Community Center, helping relieve exhausted community members who had spent much of their time cooking for first responders following the slide.

The organization's feeding unit was deactivated Friday, but Grams said chaplain services likely will remain for a while.

In addition, trained volunteers and a recovery trailer armed with ladders, shovels and other equipment may be dispatched to help those whose homes and property were inundated by flood water from the slide, he said.

As a chaplain, Vines said his job was to talk to people about their needs. Sometimes it was helping them visit a store or pharmacy, other times it was simply listening.

"They were so gracious to have us there to help them," he said.

Vines said he will head back to Darrington for another 10 days Saturday, working as a chaplain to help local pastors.

His wife, a substitute teacher, will accompany him.

Vines has volunteered for other relief efforts in the past, including last year's Colorado Springs wildfires and the 2008 aftermath of Hurricane Ike.

Because volunteers pay their own way, it's impossible to volunteer for every opportunity, he said.

Still, he said the job of Baptist volunteers is not to take over other people's jobs, but to help those already doing them.

"It's wonderful that we're able to go help the people in need," he said. "That's a blessing right there."

-- Tri-City Herald intern Matt Benoit is a Washington State University student: 509-947-9277, mbenoit@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Matt_Benoit

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