My Life in Zion

The life and views of a Latter-day Saint in the 21st Century…

Mormons and the Hurricane Sandy Storm Cleanup

A damaged home in the Sea Gate part of Brooklyn, New York still proudly displays a sign which takes on a much deeper meaning today.

Today President Obama flew into New Jersey as Commander in Chief to symbolically offer his hand of help to those struggling in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. As the devastation seemed to grow before our eyes as we read articles online and watched the news, the death toll from the storm also seemed to rise, bringing a somber feeling across our country.

Amidst the utter destruction from the Carolinas to Connecticut, and across our nation, I think we all bowed our heads for a moment to say a prayer for those in need.

As life continued on as just another Wednesday, and a rather uneventful Halloween for myself and much of the world, there were over 500 Mormon Missionaries pounding the pavement from the New York New York South, New York New York North, and New Jersey Morristown missions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Today wasn’t a day of tracting though. Today was a day of hard physical labor cleaning up from Hurricane Sandy’s destruction.

Missionaries from the New York New York South Mission clean up in a Valley Stream, New York neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy Wednesday, 31 October 2012.

President Kevin E. Calderwood of the church’s New York New York South Mission told the Deseret News,

“We’ve been in basements, on roofs, in yards cutting down trees, hauling things out of people’s houses, pulling out carpet and doing whatever people need us to do to help.”

The missionaries have been gathering in groups of six at members’ devastated homes, and then fanning out to assist in cleaning up first responders’ homes, and as well as anyone else whom they could assist. Many members of the Church, who lost everything or are still unable to return to their homes, are staying at two of the Church’s meetinghouses in Lynbrook and Freeport, New York. There are generators there to give electricity, and these buildings are quickly becoming hubs for community clean up efforts.

The Lynbrook, New York meetinghouse of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has became a temporary home for some and hub of relief efforts. – Photo courtesy of Google Maps Street View.

“This isn’t about just helping our members,” Calderwood stressed. “We’re here to help anyone and everyone. We’re here to serve. And right now, this is the service that is needed.”

The Church also released a press release today outlining much of the efforts that are being done. I share this part of the release,

Elder Swede Storey, a missionary from Odgen, Utah, said it is hard to see people he’s come to love in such a difficult situation, but he’s grateful to be able to help. “I’ve grown to love this city so much, so it’s been tough to see the areas where I’ve served damaged and the families I know with so much damage.”

Elder Josh Munday, from Kent, England, another missionary in New York, was also thankful to be able to serve others during the disaster. “This is the calling of our church, to help those who are in need,” he said. “It’s been so sad to see everyone with such hardships in their lives right now. We’ll be praying for the others who are in need.”

President Calderwood said missionaries will continue to provide whatever help they can in the coming days and weeks. “There’s more work here to do than anyone has capacity to do, but we’ll just take it one house at a time,” he said.

Missionaries, Church members and other volunteers will spend the next few days out in neighborhoods, helping meet immediate needs and assessing damage, then will make plans to return to help with larger, long-term projects. Some damage assessment and work must wait until roads are safe, downed power lines are cleared and flooded areas open up. As soon as first responders determine it is safe, local Church leaders will work with government and relief agencies to help organize assistance in those areas.

Relief efforts are being coordinated on both a local and regional level. Church leader Elder Jeffery E. Olson is helping coordinate efforts by Church members in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and said local leaders are eager to organize all the assistance they can. “Everyone expressed a willingness to go where they needed to go and help anyone who needed help,” he said. “In fact, they were willing to come as far away as Buffalo if we needed them.”

The Church has equipment and supplies that are being distributed as needs are determined. The Church has pre-positioned supplies in warehouses in Indianapolis, Washington D.C., New York and New Jersey. Those supplies include generators, food, water, blankets, hygiene kits, tarps, chain saws, shovels and wheelbarrows.

Elder Olson said Church members in the area were fairly well prepared for the storm, and have been able to reach out to those who need help. “We’ve been teaching our members to be at a level of preparedness so that they are also able to help their neighbors and community recover after a disaster,” he said.

Just as was done with Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and many other major storms in recent years, the Church “pre-positioned” supplies in various areas and will now distribute them as directed by area and local priesthood leadership.

Having been a part of numerous Church disaster relief efforts, I can personally testify that there is perhaps no more beautiful part of our faith than when you get to see it work so beautifully under the direction of the Spirit for the temporal and spiritual welfare of others on such a large scale.

President Calderwood also shared these moving words with the Deseret News,

“I’m glad our missionaries are young and strong. If you haven’t tried to haul a soaking wet carpet out of a basement with two feet of water in it, you have no idea how filthy and back-breaking it can be. But the missionaries seem to be loving it. They are here to serve. They enjoy it. And the people have been really appreciative of what we are doing. There is so much work to be done here – this isn’t something that’s going to be finished in a week or two, and we’ll stay at it as long as we are needed. We are servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, and he tells us to love our neighbors.”

“And right now, our neighbors need help.”

A missionary from the New York New York South Mission cleans up in a Valley Stream, New York neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy Wednesday, 31 October 2012.

In the coming days there is little doubt that we will hear more heartbreaking stories of loved ones, homes, and neighborhoods lost. In the coming weeks and months there will be much to clean up both physically and emotionally. But today was a good start.

Following are images of the destruction which have come forth today via various news outlets. Seeing that a picture is worth a thousand words, I will let the true magnitude of the devastation speak for itself.

The President took an air tour of the destruction today, and saw how homes in Seaside Heights, New Jersey have become surrounded by water after Superstorm Sandy lashed the Atlantic Coast.

During his helicopter tour the President was shown how Superstorm Sandy tore away part of the Mantoloking Bridge in New Jersey.

Marine One helicopter, carrying President Obama and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, takes an aerial tour of the Atlantic Coast in New Jersey.

President Obama holds North Point Marina owner Donna Vanzant close as he tours damage done by Superstorm Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (left) stands with them.

President Barack Obama talks to a resident as he tours a neighborhood effected by Sandy in Brigantine, New Jersey. Walking with with him are two Democrat senators, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez.

People examine the wreckage of boats washed ashore in Great Kills, Staten Island.

People stand in line for fuel at the corner of Hylan Boulevard and Reid Avenue in Staten Island, New York.

Gary Silberman surveys his home that was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy in Lindenhurst, New York.

A collapsed house along the central Jersey Shore coast.

The President took the helicopter tour to see for himself how homes in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, were destroyed in the storm.

The President was shown the damage to this amusement park at Seaside Heights, New Jersey.

In complete chaos, the streets in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, are covered with fallen power lines and debris following heavy damage by Superstorm Sandy.

A blatant message for the President as he tours New Jersey’s devastation in Marine One: “Romney” spelled boldly in the sand of a local beach. – Election day is now less than a week away.

Crossing the political divide, Barack Obama comforts the New Jersey’s Republican Governor Chris Christie, a Mitt Romney supporter who has surprisingly sung the President’s praises since Hurricane Sandy struck.

The shadow of Air Force One is seen as it approaches Atlantic City International Airport before the President’s helicopter tour of the devastated region.

An aerial view of the Breezy Point neighborhood in New York, where more than 50 homes were burned to the ground as a result of Hurricane Sandy.

Surveying the destruction New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (center) views storm damage in the Breezy Point area of Queens after fire destroyed homes.

John Okeefe walks on the beach as the roller coaster that once sat on the Funtown Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, rests in the ocean.

This US Air Force photo shows an aerial view of the roller coaster from the Seaside Heights amusement park on the New Jersey shore submerged in surf.

The roller coaster was severely damaged as Superstorm Sandy destroyed the boardwalk and pier in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

A woman looks at damage in the Rockaway neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, where the historic boardwalk was washed away during Superstorm Sandy.

An unusual pile-up, this aerial photograph shows boats lying next to a house near Monmouth Beach, New Jersey, where they were washed ashore during the storm.

In this National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration image, the remnants of Tropical Sandy move across eastern America on Wednesday.

This photograph, provided by the state of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, shows a boat resting on the tracks at Metro-North’s Ossining Station in the aftermath of the storm.

This photo taken on Tuesday shows a store with ‘Boo Sandy’ and ‘Trick or Treat?’ writing on wooden boards covering a store front in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This was undoubtedly a Halloween many will not soon forget.

Many beachfront properties in Rockaway, Queens, New York, have been completely destroyed.

Cars floating in an underground parking garage in New York.

Stan Way

If you’ve stumbled upon this site and you’re not a Mormon please click here to learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and what we believe.

If you would like to assist in the clean up efforts in a real and physical way and you’re in the New England area, ask a local Mormon how you can. They’ll have you shoveling sand out of basements and chopping down trees before you know it. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina I remember a particularly touching weekend during which over 10,000 Mormons converged on southern Mississippi and Louisiana to help in clean up efforts. Some came from as far away as Washington State, on their own dime, to help be their brother’s keeper. And just last year I witnessed my own small chapel used as a campground for 400+ Latter-day Saints who came in to help clean up my community after the deadly tornadoes of 27 April 2011 here in Alabama. So seriously, if you want to help out in the efforts, grab a Mormon! We love making new friends and cleaning up after disasters.

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One thought on “Mormons and the Hurricane Sandy Storm Cleanup

  1. Katie B. on said:

    Thank you for covering the efforts of the missionaries in the NYNYS, NYNYN, and NJ Morristown missions. I served in Queens, Brooklyn, and LI from 2004 through 2005 and a dear friend served in Morristown during 2001. I wish I could be there now to lift those who are such desperate need of help and comfort!

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