In the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, the storm surge that heavily hit the shores of Florida, various areas were left in desolation, leaving many residents in dire need of emergency assistance.
After learning about the devastation, 21 young men and women, all returned missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often mistakenly referred to as the “Mormon Church”), immediately answered the call to serve once again. Now back in their homes, over 2,000 miles, these young men and women who had served in the Florida Tallahassee region, piled into four vehicles in Provo, Utah, and traveled over 30 hours to once again serve the people whom they had come to know and love while on their missions. The group whose goal was to aid the devastated victims in Panama City, Florida, arrived in time to help with the 20 – 21 October weekend relief effort.
Joey Hollinger, from Lehi, Utah said, “When God sort of laid it all out for me so I could go, I just had to.” Vanessa Wall, from Farmington, Utah, added, “As missionaries we became friends while working in this area and have kept in touch since getting back home.” Olivia Fast, from Palmdale, California, commented, “When we heard about this disaster, we knew we needed to come back to our second ‘home’ and help out the people we came to love here.” And, Trevor Burnigham from Layton, Utah, remarked, “When you love people, there is no distance or anything you won’t do for them.”
The diligent group worked all weekend at homes in the Panama City area, cutting up trees that had fallen and moving debris to the street for community pickup. Over the past two weekends, over 3,000 Church member volunteers from six states rallied together to serve storm victims in devastated areas from Marianna to Mexico Beach.
A hotline has been set up for people needing volunteer help with cleanup. The line will be available until Friday, 2 November 2018. The telephone number to call is 1-800-451-1954. Reputable and vetted relief agencies are providing the following services as they are able: cutting fallen trees, removing wet drywall, insulation, flooring, furniture, appliances, adding tarps to cover damaged roofs, etc. Although the services are free, due to the overwhelming demand, they are not guaranteed. In the first week following the storm, 4,000 requests were received. The work orders are placed on a website where volunteer organizations can review them and select work that they can perform.
Individuals who wish to volunteer to help with the relief efforts are directed to the Just Serve website and to look for the header “Help with current relief efforts” and click on the Hurricane Michael button.