(Updated 16 December 2012)
Volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are continuing efforts to help East Coast residents recover from Hurricane Sandy. Local leaders cancelled or abbreviated worship services to give members more time to serve.
More than 7,700 Church members and missionaries have devoted over 80,000 hours since Hurricane Sandy hit to help residents along the storm’s path. The Church has provided 300,000 pounds of relief supplies including: food, water, blankets, hygiene kits, generators, pumps, tarps, cleaning supplies and fuel.
Local Church leaders from all across the East Coast are helping to organize the Church’s relief projects. The efforts are centrally coordinated through a Church building in New Jersey, and donations and supplies are gathered there to be shipped out to the areas most affected by the storm.
This past weekend, one group of Church volunteers from the New York area focused its efforts on first responders’ damaged homes in the Rockaways, an area on the southwest side of Long Island. The volunteers have spent much of the past week cleaning out basements in the area: clearing flood-damaged furniture, ripping out ruined sheetrock and removing dirt, sand, mold and trash.
In first responder John Carbone’s home, volunteers helped strip damaged sheetrock from most of the basement. Carbone said he appreciated the group’s willingness to help anyone in need. “Everybody’s being helped by you people,” he said. “It’s not just, ‘Hey, you’re a Catholic, so I’m going to help you; you’re Pentecostal, I’m going to help you.’ No, you’re a human being. You’re going to help them all.”
Church members also helped residents in Staten Island. Resident Patricia Varvaro said the volunteers helped her with cleanup, but also helped to lift her spirits. She said they helped her believe that “there’s humanity left in this world; there’s still good people. It’s giving you a feeling of hope in a moment of despair.”
The yellow-vested volunteers in Long Island have gone house-to-house helping residents needing assistance removing trees or pumping water from basements.
About 200 missionaries from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut joined 200 other Church members from Connecticut to work in storm-damaged towns along the Connecticut coast on Sunday, including Fairfield, Milford, Bridgeport, Madison and Killingworth.
The Church has also helped to transport supplies to affected areas. Church members in Oakton, Virginia, helped fill six semi-trucks full of coats, blankets and clothing. They were delivered to the Rockaway and Lynbrook areas of Queens last week.
Church leaders continue to partner and coordinate relief efforts with local authorities, the American Red Cross, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) and other relief organizations. Church members will continue major cleanup efforts for the next several weeks. “The devastation left by the storm is heart-wrenching. So many people have lost so much, and we will do everything we can to provide their families with relief and help rebuild our communities,” said Jeffery E. Olson, a Church leader organizing the local disaster response.
Since 16 December, more than 28,000 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers have given over 275,000 hours of service cleaning, moving furniture from flooded homes and distributing supplies. The job is not done.