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Tallahassee Stake sent more than 100 to Hammond

HAMMOND, LA – Members of the Tallahassee Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined more than 2,000 other volunteers in Louisiana this past weekend (Sept. 17-19) as Hurricane Ida relief efforts continued for the third week.

Tallahassee Stake volunteers were sent to the Church command center in Hammond, Louisiana, where they received work assignments. The Church also staffed command centers in Slidell and Gonzales, Louisiana.

Since the Helping Hands effort in Louisiana started soon after the storm made landfall, nearly 5,000 volunteers from the Church have completed more than 2,000 work hours on hurricane cleanup assignments including debris removal, flood damage mitigation, and roof tarp installation on residential homes.

Chainsaws, wheelbarrows, hygiene kits, water and other tools needed to aid victims of the storm were shipped to the command centers from the Church’s global humanitarian organization, Latter-day Saint Charities.

The thousands of Helping Hands volunteers, wearing their trademark yellow t-shirts and vests, came from Latter-day Saint congregations in Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Tennessee to work on hurricane relief. The Tallahassee Stake includes congregations in Tallahassee (7), Thomasville, Cairo, Quincy, Crawfordville, Perry, and Madison.

“Having done this many times in the past it’s really rewarding to know what the end result will be and what it will feel like,” said Mike Bergstrom, a Tallahassee volunteer who made the six-hour drive for the work assignment. “The biggest blessing is to watch the faces of those people we came here to help,” he added.

Heather Martin, president of the Hammond Art Guild, saw her home studio and much of her artwork washed away by two feet of water.

Artist Heather Martin outside her flood-damaged home.

Artist Heather Martin outside her flood-damaged home.

“There were 20 houses that flooded on my street. That’s the first time that has ever happened,” she said. “I stayed with friends during the storm, and we hid in a hallway for seven hours. I don’t think I have ever been that scared in all of my life,” she added.

Martin said the volunteers were a godsend. “I’m grateful for the Church because I don’t know what I would have done without them,” she said.

Martin was desperate for help after the storm and even took pieces of a door frame and spelled out “help” on her lawn so it could be seen from the air.

Joey and Cristy Wilks, who had numerous large trees toppled across their property, rode out the storm at her mom’s house where there are fewer trees.

Homeowners Joey and Cristy Wilks.

Homeowners Joey and Cristy Wilks.

“We were actually about two miles down the road, but we could hear the tornados. There was no sleeping that night. If I was here, I probably would have had a panic attack. I heard we had wind up to 160 miles per hour,” she said.

Cristy Wilks said she was impressed with the volunteers who came to help with the cleanup.

“I think it’s amazing. There is no way we could have got this work done on our own, even with family in the area. And with having to go back to work, we couldn’t have done it,” she said.