Helping Hands volunteers have wrapped up five weeks of cleanup work in Hammond following Hurricane Ida.
More than 11,000 volunteers through with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints traveled from Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida to join their Louisiana church family in disaster relief.
The church set up four Helping Hands command centers in the hardest hit areas of Louisiana, including Hammond, Gonzales, Slidell and Houma.
Linda Whittington of Hammond and her family were thankful to see “a sea of yellow shirts” pull up and get to work.
The Helping Hands volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints brought chainsaws, a tractor and the manpower to remove the large trees and debris that had fallen around her home.
“I felt joy when I woke up this morning,” she said. “It’s gonna be joy in my heart for a long time. I know God is good.”
Helping Hands volunteers labored free of charge throughout their five-week clean-up effort, clearing debris and downed trees and performing mold remediation on flood-ravaged homes and churches.
They completed 5,517 work orders totaling over 295,500 hours. Each work order represented one home or house of worship.
One of those Helping Hands volunteers was Laurene Lahr, of Brandon, Mississippi, who wore a ball cap to protect her head that remains shaved for the treatment of a benign tumor.
“I am the luckiest person in the world,” she said after helping haul branches to the curb from a tree that had fallen on Derricka Andrew’s home in Hammond.
Ms. Rouchell Dangerfield has lived in Hammond all of her life. She has lived in her current location on Wilbert Dangerfield Drive for over 60 years. Her father, Wilbert Dangerfield, was a Hammond city councilman for 19 years beginning in 1976.
Ms. Dangerfield has seen many storms pass through. However none of the storms affected her as much as Hurricane Ida.
She said she felt despair the first few days after the storm. Help was not available because everyone was suffering as much as she was.
She received the number for Crisis Clean-up from a family member and was pleased when Helping Hands crews came to provide help the first two weekends after the hurricane.
“I could have easily been swallowed up in a sea of need,” she said. “Thanks to Heavenly Father for answering my prayers and sending the help I needed.”
The Helping Hands crews were not only serving the people of Hammond, they were being served as well. The Louisiana Jaycees provided meals to volunteers working out of the Hammond Command Center on multiple occasions. The group, which is a branch of JCI USA, focuses on professional development through community action and often stands ready to respond to disaster relief.
Christian Gray, of Ponchatoula, is president of Louisiana Jaycees. He spent time at the Hammond Command Center in the fifth and final weekend learning more about Helping Hands operations and crisis cleanup software that they utilize in their relief efforts.
In helping to prepare and deliver the meals provided by the Louisiana Jaycees, Courtney Davis said, “We are always looking for ways to help the community…We want people to know we’re here.”
Olivia Martin, 14, was working on a Helping Hands crew with her father and brother when Davis and fellow Jaycee member Sarah Costanza brought lunch.
“It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be helping with moving debris, organizing food, or delivering items to people who need them” the girl said. “All you see when you look around Hammond is a big community of good people doing service.”
Regional Latter-day Saint ecclesiastical leader Elder Quinn S. Millington commented, “Every week that we were here we saw volunteers arriving, giving their time and resources to come and serve. That to me is a witness of a miracle. It is a witness to me of their love of Jesus Christ and their willingness to follow Him.”