Mormon Helping Hands volunteers go to hurricane-ravaged areas
Oct 04, 2017 | 1525 views | 0 0 comments | 293 293 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The LDS Church is among dozens of groups coordinating help through the Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster and Crisiscleanup.org, including Texas Baptist Men, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Catholic Charities and Habitat for Humanity.

These groups have found homes damaged by winds, trees down, several feet of water inside homes, and extensive property damage.

More than 10,000 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers worked to save Texas homes damaged by Hurricane Harvey.

Deadly black mold threatens lives and will destroy thousands of Harvey-ravaged homes within days if they aren’t cleaned out quickly. On Saturday and Sunday, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers mucked out the homes of anyone who asked.

“Our chance to save people’s homes is in the first 30 days,” said Elder J. Devn Cornish, a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “After about a month, the studs in houses rot, and renovating a house is no longer an option. The house is lost.”

Armed with mold-repelling masks, Mormon volunteers traveled from all over Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and spent Saturday and Sunday mucking out homes in the greater Houston area and east to the Louisiana border.

They worked all day Saturday, then slept in tents on Little League fields, in schools and outside LDS meetinghouses. On Sunday morning, they participated in abbreviated worship services at 8 a.m. and went straight back to work.

John Woodman described their experience: “We arrived at our first assignment at 9 a.m. and surveyed the situation ... flood depth in the garage was 3 ft. deep and about 6 inches less in the home. The carpet had been removed already, but the house was full of furniture. The family was packing items as fast as they could and boxing them up.

“We removed all appliances, furniture and sack after sack of wet debris. We were aided in the process by about 15 members of Mrs. Sells’ church.

“Without their help we would have spent the entire two days at this one home. It was great to see the friendship develop in the minutes of working side-by-side as the project progressed. There was great togetherness of cause and comradery.

“We finally cut the drywall at 4 ft. and removed to the trash heap. We lost our local helpers about noon and completed the project by ourselves. We finished up at about 4 p.m. and were bushed. To give you an idea of the scope, the curb pile was at least 7 ft. tall, 12-15 ft. wide and about 70 ft. long.”

Mormon Helping Hands volunteers gave a estimated 200,000 hours of service over the weekend. The group fanned out throughout the region, divided into 10-person crews. Each crew generally can clean out three or four homes in two days.

“Our target is 10,000 people per weekend for the first month,” Elder Cornish said. “We’ve got to help people save their homes.”

In all, 53 LDS stakes (a stake is a geographic group of congregations like a diocese) mobilized over the weekend. The goal is to have them arrive by the thousands without draining any local resources. The groups packed food and supplies to sustain themselves throughout the weekend in order to preserve precious resources for the local residents and survivors of the storm.

Jake Pilcher, 13, said, “The people were so happy to see us come and we were happy to help. I can’t wait to go back and help again.”

On Sept. 9-10, the Gilmer LDS stake sent 126 volunteers equaling 1,578 hours of service and completed “muck-outs” in 37 homes. They returned on Sept. 23-24 to serve the communities surrounding Houston again.
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