Following the aftermath of flooding and consequential devastation last month in Louisiana, over a hundred members of the Conyers Georgia Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints literally spent Labor Day weekend laboring with over 1,000 other volunteers from the Greater Atlanta area helping victims of the flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Planning for the weekend of service began about 2 weeks before Labor Day when the call went out from local leaders of the church asking for volunteers. The number of people who volunteered more than doubled the initial goal.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints organized a relief effort, with a goal of maintaining 2,000 volunteers, affectionately called Mormon Helping Hands (MHH) wearing yellow t-shirts and vests, per weekend in the affected area. The actual number of volunteers from the southeast area of the United States doubled, then tripled, with each succeeding weekend culminating in 6,696 MHH volunteers providing 108,294 hours of service over Labor Day weekend for a total of 13,295 MHH Volunteers providing 218,592 hours of service since the flood waters receded.
Flooded homes generally must be stripped of all property in the damaged area of the house, primarily involving removal of debris, furniture and other belongings, and then stripping out drywall, cabinetry, wood floors, and other components of homes so owners can start to rebuild. Thousands in the Baton Rouge area have lost everything but the basic structure of their home during the flooding in Louisiana.
Bill Kirkland, a member of the Conyers Georgia Stake shared this about his experience, “It was great to see such an enormous outpouring of support from the church and the large number of members who sacrificed their time and talent to travel at their own expense to help victims of the flooding in Louisiana. There was a great spirit just being in their presence.”
Volunteers were grouped into teams of 8-12. Each team helped between 2-4 families whose homes were devastated by the unexpected floods that hit the area in early August. Pausing only for a 7:30 a.m. church worship service on Sunday, volunteers worked both Saturday and Sunday helping families tear out sheet rock and clear damaged belongings from their homes before returning to the Atlanta area on Monday.
President Scott Johnson, president of the Conyers Georgia Stake, and his family, as well as Natalie Shipp Hanson, a Conyers native who now lives in Covington, and her husband and older children, were among those 6,696 volunteers.
Jeremy Darrington, a member of the Centerville congregation of the Conyers Georgia Stake shared his deep feelings about his opportunity to serve. “It was such a good day today! What was originally intended by me as a time to serve became a balm in Gilead to my heart. This weekend has opened my eyes to a greater understanding of what it means to mourn with those who mourn, comfort those who stand in of comfort, to relieve the suffering of others.”
“The responses of overwhelming gratitude that were expressed by those who we reached out to and provided aid and love were something I cannot even begin to put into word. Poetry and eloquence cannot capture the indescribable love and compassion I felt for these my brothers and sisters who we were blessed to touch,” continued Darrington.
“We heard marvelous stories of support, neighbor for neighbor, and person for person, helping all around them regardless of ethnicity, religion, creed or station. We heard harrowing experiences of sacrifice, devastation, sorrow and loss, but in it all was a mettle of deep conviction to overcome and push on through, not expecting anything but a little help to calm their souls and quiet their hearts, burning through where hope ran clear as day.”
Darrington also said, “I have been spiritually renewed, with a greater sense of hope and love for my fellow beings. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for allowing me this privilege to serve and grow through so many others’ love! God be thanked for His wisdom and love and granting us experience in succor relief by way of others of his children who do things for others because they are converted to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
For more information, contact: Doreen Williams, 678-232-1407, Public Affairs Representative, Conyers Georgia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.