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Floods in California
“I’ve seen so many smiles even though it’s such a sad thing that happened,” Elder Matthew N. Jones, a young missionary in the California San Jose Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said as he helped muck out flooded basements in Felton, a small community in Northern California.
Relief efforts of the Church have begun in California following several weeks of torrential rains that left areas of Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco with major flooding. Several truckloads of food have been sent from the Bishops’ Central Storehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah. Local church members and missionaries are volunteering to organize and distribute items and clean up damaged property.
The floods have caused roughly $1 billion in property damage across the state. Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Francisco were hit the hardest, with mountainous areas receiving over 30 inches of rain between December 26 and January 15. More than 20 million Californians faced flood alerts, and a few dozen lives were lost.
Anticipating the needs of their communities, missionaries from the California San Jose Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ filled sandbags, staged sandbags around homes, helped move furniture to the second story of several residences and prepared two evacuation centers in Santa Cruz County.
With rain subsiding, missionaries are aiding in flood and mudslide cleanup. They are partnering with the Volunteer Center of Santa Cruz County and have completed nearly 900 hours of service. Volunteers from AmeriCorps and the Red Cross joined the missionaries in mucking out 20 private homes in Felton Grove and Paradise Park last weekend.
“My basement flooded over six feet,” said Erika Isa Sharps of Felton. “It’s been such a blessing to see so many folks from the Latter-day Saints come in. … They showed up and took just a few minutes to clear up people’s basements and make such a big impact. I’m really grateful. … It’s a thing that everyone here will always remember.”
The Church has also sent several truckloads of food to the foodbanks of San Benito, Merced and Monterey counties as well as Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County. Needed staples like rice, spaghetti, peanut butter, jam, butter and cheese were included.
Youth from the Church’s Merced California Stake (a group of congregations) used their day off school to help distribute food and other donations gathered by Church members on Monday, January 16. Women from the Relief Society, the Church’s global organization for women, also gathered 200 heaters.
“[We’ve seen] so many people [coming] from different areas,” Elder Jones said. “People have been cleaning up for days and it’s really amazing to see people from all over California come here just to be able to help each other — scoop up mud, get dirty — y’know? I’ve seen so many smiles even though it’s such a sad thing that happened.”
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Tornadoes in Alabama and Georgia
The Church of Jesus Christ has also sent resources to areas in Alabama and Georgia after a severe storm system produced over 30 tornadoes across the southeastern United States on Thursday, January 12. The tornados left a trail of destruction from Selma, Alabama, to Atlanta, Georgia.
Over 300 volunteers from the Church have helped with cleanup projects at 14 different locations in Griffin, Georgia. Their work included removing debris from private property and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church.
“To recognize that I was an answer to someone’s prayer made me feel like I was on the Lord’s errand,” said Craig Sultan, a member of the Fayetteville Young Single Adult Ward (congregation) who helped with the removal of a large tree that had fallen at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church’s cemetery. “My heart was full and I made friends that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t offer service today.”
In Prattville, Alabama, over 800 volunteers have set up a disaster relief command center and have given over 1,100 hours of service so far. They have completed nearly 400 cleaning projects at homes and worship centers, and provided a donation of 250 food boxes.
The Church also sent a separate donation of 40,000 pounds of food to the Selma Area Food Bank, with additional shipments of personal hygiene products, baby care supplies and food sent to Women In Training, Inc. in Montgomery, Alabama.
“First give an honor to Almighty God for saving lives during the storm,” said Atkin Jemison, a Selma City Council member from Ward 6. “[We are grateful] for the community coming together as one whole, helping each other, for the outreach coordinator and community for an awesome job done in Selma, Alabama. Thanks to everyone. All praise due to God. God saved us all.”
Church members, leaders and missionaries continue to collaborate with local authorities and charities to meet the needs of individuals and families recovering from the tornado outbreak.