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Care, feeding of relief workers requires monumental efforts

By By MICHELE GERLACH Publisher
When Alabama Power CEO Charles McCrary visited Brewton Thursday, he quipped that his company had single-handedly increased the population by about 10 percent.
In its efforts to restore power, Alabama Power brought crews of approximately 500 people into the Brewton area, while Southern Pine had additional 650 workers in the area.
Feeding and housing those workers required a colossal effort.
Workers slept in the gymnasiums of T.R. Miller High School, Jefferson Davis Community College, and the YMCA. Hotel rooms were utilized when possible, and by the end of the week, tents were set up at Southern Normal.
Food was another matter. Meals were shipped in from as far away as Birmingham, and local workers cooked around the clock to keep hungry workers fed.
Martha Simmons and Doris James of the local Alabama Power office enlisted the help friends and neighbors to keep meals on the table.
Once or twice, they said, they felt they were living the parable of the Loaves and Fishes.
James, who's worked with Alabama Power for 23 years, said everyone worked as a team. One afternoon, they peeled 20 to 25 pounds of potatoes to serve mashed potatoes to the men. Another night, they took the apples left over from sack lunches served earlier in the day and made fried pies.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, a team of volunteers from Elba prepared lunch for 300 to 380 linemen working for Southern Pine.
Mart Gray, minister of Covenant Baptist Church, said the effort was supported by a number of churches in Elba, as well as businesses.
Friday, his crew included representatives of five churches. He said he believed people responded because they remembered what it meant when people came to help them following massive flooding in 1990 and 1998. The workers provide a sack lunch with hamburger, hotdog, chips and fruit to 320 workers.