Nothing like a Category 4 hurricane to ruin your day, should you happen to be in its path. When it keeps on raining, the levee’s going to break, as the song goes. Well, this time the levees near New Orleans apparently held as Hurricane Ida made landfall nearby and dumped a bunch of rain. Sixteen years ago with Hurricane Katrina, it was a different story. This is your chance to share your own personal hurricane story in the comments. But first let’s talk about the larger Mormon emergency response story: semi trucks full of relief supplies, Mormon chapels used as temporary shelters and relief centers, and LDS volunteers (including local missionaries) supporting Helping Hands squads — the yellow shirts crews. I’m hoping one or two of your stories include service given or received through a yellow shirts crew.
A little background. About a dozen years ago I attended a stake conference Saturday evening session where an LDS fellow who was an emergency relief official spoke at length about the LDS response to Hurricane Katrina. It was fascinating. I honestly can’t recall whether he was a federal official with FEMA who happened to be LDS or whether he was strictly within the LDS response organization, but he had a lot of experience and related a lot of details. Semi trailers are pre-loaded with supplies (blankets, clothes, food, water, hygiene kits, and so forth) and ready to be sent in as soon as roads are clear and local officials allow travel into affected areas. LDS members in surrounding areas are somehow always ready and willing to provide volunteer assistance, donning yellow shirts and marching in with shovels and chainsaws. The LDS response capacity is truly impressive.
Here are a few short paragraphs from a Mormon Newsroom story dated September 1, 2005, titled Church Providing Relief to Hurricane Katrina Victims. I have no doubt similar aid is on the move today in response to Hurricane Ida.
Emergency relief supplies and food commodities from Church storehouses in the southeastern United States have been delivered to Church meetinghouses serving as shelters and relief centers in the disaster area.
Congregational leaders are distributing the much-needed supplies to Church members and their neighbors regardless of religious affiliation. Supplies are also going to inland Church buildings temporarily housing storm evacuees.
Fourteen truckloads of pre-positioned food, water and emergency equipment have already been delivered to Church buildings in the coastal areas devastated by Katrina’s winds, storm surge and consequent flooding. And more aid is on its way from Salt Lake City.
Twelve semitrailer loads of additional supplies have left the Church’s central storehouse in Salt Lake City over the past few days en route to the southeast to resupply the regional storehouses and selected meetinghouses.
Your tithing dollars at work. Something to be proud of. I’m fairly sure the Church’s capacity to provide this sort of response is built on the logistical backbone of the Church welfare system, with well-stocked warehouses scattered around the country and a fleet of trucks that regularly move goods from warehouses to local areas for distribution to church members in need. No doubt some of you readers are familiar with that operation as recipients, as bishops or Relief Society Presidents working with recipients, or as warehouse workers or truck drivers. On the one hand, it doesn’t take much to build an emergency relief component on top of that existing operation. On the other hand, the LDS Church actually did it, and not many other church organizations could or can pull that off. We’ve got the money, we’ve got the resources (warehouses, trucks, volunteers), and we did it. Cryin’ won’t help you, prayin’ won’t do you no good … but a bunch of Mormons with trucks and shovels will get the mud out of your basement and give you two boxes of food and essentials.
Now it would be possible to take a rather cynical view of this and say the Church does this just to produce some good PR. Your tithing bucks directed to preparations plus your volunteer hours organized to assist disaster victims equals good PR for the Church and maybe some proselyting payoff. I doubt that line of thinking plays a major role in the decision to mount LDS disaster relief initiatives. Most of the good PR is noticed only by Church members. I’m sure there are hundreds or thousands of disaster relief recipients who are truly grateful and who, in the future, think nicer things about their Mormon neighbors, but I doubt there are many disaster relief conversions. I think this is just a case of good Christian service. So kudos to the Church for undertaking this challenging task. And congrats to anyone and everyone who has participated as a volunteer assisting this type of response.
So there is a lot to talk about in the comments. I doubt anyone in New Orleans is going to chime in, since they are no doubt busy with other tasks today and may not even have power or Internet or phone service. But the rest of you have a thing or two to share.
- Got a hurricane story? The closest I came was getting rained on for four days straight while doing some consulting work on Chuuk (used to be called Truk for you WW2 buffs). There was a hurricane hovering about 200 miles offshore. In the Pacific, they call them typhoons.
- Got a Katrina story? I grew up on the West Coast. I’ve got earthquake stories. In the mountain states, it’s wildfire stories. In the Midwest, it’s all about cold, cold winters, which is why they all move to Arizona or St. George sooner or later. Back East, I don’t know. Fill me in.
- Got a Mormon emergency response story? Or maybe a Helping Hands story? I want to hear it.