PENSACOLA, Florida (ABC4 News) – In six weeks, three hurricanes landed on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The hurricanes hit the area between the Southeast Texas Coast to the Florida Panhandle.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints helped before and after the hurricanes hit.
“We’ve learned [disaster preparedness over the years] as a Church … we do really well [in assisting] when we have a quick response,” said Michael Lavoie, an area welfare specialist covering the Southeast United States.
According to a press release from the church, “More than 1,900 Latter-day Saint Helping Hands volunteers wearing yellow shirts from congregations in Alabama, Georgia, and northern and central Florida gathered on Friday through Sunday, October 16–18, 2020, in Pensacola and Daphne, Alabama, to help residents they have never met. The volunteers, including many families, cut down fallen trees, protected damaged roofs with tarps, and prayed together.”
“During the four weekends of service, more than 6,500 Latter-day Saints cleaned up nearly 4,000 homes damaged by Hurricane Sally. A total of 130,000 hours were donated by the volunteers.”
“Other significant community-wide Church volunteer efforts ensued after powerful Hurricane Laura, a Category 4 storm, crossed the southwest Louisiana coast with 150-mile-per-hour winds on August 29. A third hurricane, Delta, hit southwest Louisiana on October 12.”
The church’s planning for the U.S. Hurricane season begins months in advance.
“A group of various special area welfare specialists get together once a year,” said Lavoie, who explained that the Church’s preparedness process begins during the first quarter of each year.
“As we prepare for those disasters ahead of time, we become more organized,” he added. “We typically discuss plans on how we would operate command centers and process.”
“We’re able to respond fairly quickly to pretty much any disaster,” said Lavoie.
Trucks can be loaded with supplies and sitting outside of the path of the storm in anticipation of the disaster.
In difficult situations like Hurricane Sally, a command center is set up the first week following the storm.
“It’s just an amazing efficient way to do volunteer work,” emphasized Lavoie
The press release says the Church knows it’s only a matter of time before the next storm threatens. When that happens, The Church and its members will be ready to help each other and their neighbors.