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Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mormons and Hurricane Sandy

I'm a Mormon. All of the destruction left by the hurricane last week left me wondering when we were going to hear about LDS groups helping clean up the area in the news? Today it hit me. We won't, but not because Mormons aren't helping out, but because it's now two days away from the election and a Mormon Republican is running against the Democrat/liberal media machine. By the way, there are such reports about Mormon service - just Google "Mormon Sandy" or something like that and you'll find quite a few. They just haven't been picked up by the big papers. I don't have TV or watch TV so I can't answer for any television coverage.

Let me tell you why I know that Mormons are helping clean up the mess. First, the LDS Church sends humanitarian aid (medical supplies, food, clothing, blankets, hygiene kits) as needed anywhere in the world. They try to get it there immediately following any natural disaster, such that when help is needed, it's already available. The Church owns trucks for stateside deliveries, and uses planes for disasters further away. They coordinate and partner with local authorities and charities to best disperse the aid.

Then, there is the Mormon Helping Hands program. Following any natural disaster, LDS members reasonably near the disaster are organized and mobilized to assist people and towns in cleaning up. They do anything and everything. Really. Chain saw fallen trees, dig mud out of basements, repair buildings... It's all strictly volunteer.

Missionaries in the area of a natural disaster are always out helping in the community, whether they are organized through Helping Hands or the local congregations to whom they are assigned.

Lastly, the LDS Church has programs implemented among Church members that leave members prepared for disasters. Self-reliance, or "provident living" is an important principle in the LDS Church. For example, every person in the Church has "home teachers" assigned to watch over them and visit with them, and these home teachers (most men in the Church are home teachers) called the families and individuals they watch over before the storm to make sure they all had emergency supplies, and then contacted them after the storm to make sure they were OK. It's part of the Emergency Plan that every LDS congregation has for home teachers and sometimes people nearby in the congregation to check on each other and report to the bishopric, without the bishop having to check on all 100+ households in his congregation himself. In this particular storm, members whose homes were not damaged housed extra families whose homes were destroyed or damaged. Emergency preparedness also includes:
  • a two week supply of water for everyone in the household
  • 72-hr kits, with all basic necessities for 72 hours
  • food storage for a year, meaning even if the stores are empty, you have food you can eat for a long time. Some people have a full year's worth, others a few months' worth. Either way, they're more prepared for disasters or other temporal problems such as job loss.
  • other emergency supplies and fuel, such as propane stoves, lanterns, hygiene items, blankets, etc.

The LDS Church is widely noted for its service pending natural disasters. Just not in the news this time, because of politics. For the record, the LDS Church also has humanitarian programs across the world for clean water, wheelchairs, wells, neonatal resusitation training, other medical missions, drought and famine relief, etc. Also members of the LDS Church are often involved in serving the needy in their communities, in coordination with other service organizations.

Here is an excerpt from one report on LDS service after Sandy, to give you a feel for the scope of organization and generosity of this effort:
Missionaries, Church members and other volunteers will spend the next few days out in neighborhoods, helping meet immediate needs and assessing damage, then will make plans to return to help with larger, long-term projects. Some damage assessment and work must wait until roads are safe, downed power lines are cleared and flooded areas open up. As soon as first responders determine it is safe, local Church leaders will work with government and relief agencies to help organize assistance in those areas.

Relief efforts are being coordinated on both a local and regional level. Church leader Elder Jeffery E. Olson is helping coordinate efforts by Church members in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and said local leaders are eager to organize all the assistance they can. “Everyone expressed a willingness to go where they needed to go and help anyone who needed help,” he said. “In fact, they were willing to come from as far away as Buffalo if we needed them.”

The Church has equipment and supplies that are being distributed as needs are determined. The Church has pre-positioned supplies in warehouses in Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., New York and New Jersey. Those supplies include generators, food, water, blankets, hygiene kits, tarps, chain saws, shovels and wheelbarrows.

Elder Olson said Church members in the area were fairly well prepared for the storm and have been able to reach out to those who need help. “We’ve been teaching our members to be at a level of preparedness so that they are also able to help their neighbors and community recover after a disaster,” he said.

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