Thousands of volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are helping neighbors and those affected by Hurricane Ian.
The hurricane devastated several communities and towns along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Temporary command centers are operating at Latter-day Saint churches in the cities of Naples, Port Charlotte, Cape Coral and DeLand, to provide disaster-affected residents with support.
“It is absolutely phenomenal the work that has happened here in the last 24 hours,” said local church leader Quinn Millington. “Whenever we have a disaster, the Church has developed the ability to organize itself very quickly [and assist].”
A total of 4,450 Florida volunteers participated in the relief efforts for a combined total of 83,930 hours of service. The Church has donated more than 150,000 pounds of supplies to help with recovery efforts. Latter-day Saint volunteers carried out 2,092 work orders, which went through affected residents who need anything from roof tarps and clearing work to removing fallen trees. On average, a work order represents a service provided at a single residential address.
Additionally, Church members respond to calls for disaster relief through a Crisis Cleanup Hotline. Last week alone, 750 Latter-day Saints answered more than 13,000 calls.
“It’s exciting and it’s emotional,” Collier County District 4 Commissioner Penny Taylor said during a visit to the Naples Command Center on Saturday, Oct. 8. “You’re here to help us. It’s that human touch that’s so needed right now.
Latter-day Saint volunteers wear yellow T-shirts. They assemble at their designated command centers where they check in, receive a work order, and collect supplies and tools before departing.
“For us, it’s a privilege, it’s an honor,” said Miami volunteer Alex Mendoza. “We ourselves have been hit by hurricanes many, many times. It’s amazing to get help, especially when you need it.
In these situations, volunteers work all weekend. Many are camping near the command center on Friday evening. A brief sacrament meeting is held on Sunday before everyone leaves for a few more hours of service.
“It’s essential to come in and prepare people for help,” Taylor said during his visit to the Naples command center. “Now we are drying out, but we have to remove the baseboards, get [homes] undermined [and get] damaged furniture on the road. It is a crisis situation in many ways. However, we are a resilient community and people help others, like your Church. That’s who I called. I remembered what you did in [Hurricane] Irma, and here you are again, and we are so grateful to you.
Similar efforts will continue over the coming weeks. An additional command center will open in Venice, with volunteers coming from as far away as Georgia and Alabama over the weekend of Oct. 15-16.