An estimated 2,200 Helping Hands volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints arrived in Louisiana last week to help Hurricane Ida victims.
Among them were 600 volunteers from Pensacola and Panama City, Florida; Denham Springs; and Hattiesburg and Jackson, Mississippi to work in the Hammond area. In their trademark yellow shirts and vests, Helping Hands volunteers cleared debris, removed fallen trees and branches, performed mold remediation and brought hope to hard-hit neighborhoods.
Pensacola regional church president Jacob Smith said his group came on assignment from the North America southeast area leadership as part of a larger group of relief volunteers to complete work orders in Hammond. Their job, he said, is to help provide storm relief including removal of downed trees, tarping roofs and mucking out flooded homes.
Volunteers with the church also are working in Slidell and Gonzales.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints volunteered their time and traveled at their own expense, some even camping in tents around the Helping Hands command center.
Since 1998, Helping Hands volunteers have assisted people worldwide whose lives have been affected by natural disasters and other emergencies. Thousands of Helping Hands volunteers assisted communities with cleanup after Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Gustav, Isaac, Matthew, Michael, Florence, Laura and Sally and many others.
Today an elderly man stopped by the Hammond Command Center asking for a tarp. A tree had fallen on his house, making several holes that needed to be covered. A volunteer spoke with him and learned that he did not have anyone to help him attach the tarp or the materials needed to do the project. The volunteer immediately asked the man to come with him to the command center intake table and file a work request for a team to come attach the tarp. Within just a few minutes the work order was filed and assigned to a work team to be completed.
Helping Hands crews expect to complete over 500 work orders from the Hammond command center. The same amount is expected to be accomplished in the two other command centers. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sent trucks of supplies to the area to aid the Helping Hands volunteers in their work. Wheelbarrows, chain saws, tarps, tools, water, generators and other supplies were delivered in preparation for the multi-weekend cleanup effort.
“Our first commandments are to love God and our neighbors," Smith said. "When you are able to help, we come every time we’re called.”