SPRING, Texas — The LDS Church has now sent 28 truckloads of supplies to help Hurricane Harvey victims and support more than 10,000 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers in southeast Texas.
The trucks have carried a wide array of relief aid for victims and supplies for those working to help them, ranging from water, food, hygiene kits, clothing, diapers and wipes to shovels, cleaning kits and other equipment, said Steve Peterson, managing director of the Welfare Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is headquartered in Salt Lake City.
The church also sent 120 cases of masks.
"That's so that as volunteers get in and start ripping out wallboard above the water lines, they're not exposing themselves unduly to mold," said Bruce Muir, director of humanitarian emergency response for LDS Charities.
The overall response is far broader than trucks and supplies, and it will last for years, said Peterson and Muir, who spent the weekend in Houston. For example, the Red Cross requested trauma counselors.
"So we provided from LDS Family Services eight people who are working through the Red Cross and providing counseling," Peterson said. "We can bring a relationship and connection with larger partners. We have connections at the highest levels with groups like the Red Cross."
The Welfare Department and LDS Charities also have established ties through Seventh-day Adventist Charities and the Assemblies of God's Convoy of Hope. They are working on a partnership with Save the Children, Muir said.
"Working together with partners we're far more effective than just trying to isolate ourselves and do it on our own," Peterson added.
The faith's humanitarian response is organized through church priesthood leaders. Local leaders assess needs and send information and requests to general church leaders in Salt Lake City. Peterson and Muir provide the supply chain to fill requests.
Muir said they've received three orders per day for truckloads of material.
From Houston to the Louisiana border, Mormon Helping Hands volunteers are cleaning out flooded homes.
Requests for homes to clean come in through 211 phone calls, said Stirling Pack, regional disaster coordinator for the LDS Church in Houston, as well as through Samaritans Purse, Convoy of Hope and Seventh-day Adventists.
"We will also send missionaries and church members out to neighborhoods to canvass them," Muir said, "knock door-to-door to find out who has needs, fill out forms that describe those needs and upload those into a database and then we and other organizations will fulfill them."
The church mobilized 53 stakes to provide volunteers to clean homes over the weekend. Similar efforts are scheduled for the rest of the month.
"The big push (was for this past) weekend and for the following weekend and the weekend after that when we have thousands of volunteers showing up," Muir said. "Then we'll find out just how well-organized we are. Right now we've been able to do well."
Work is being coordinated through different websites, one of which, justserve.org, is managed by the LDS Church.
"That's an offering to the community," Peterson said. "You don't have to be any denomination to use that. Anyone can look for service opportunities or post opportunities."
Pack estimated it will take Houston six years to return to normal.
"This is going to fundamentally change the city," he said.
The LDS Church will take its time to assess how well it responded to Harvey.
"Recovery is an effort that's going to take some time," Peterson said. "That's where the real test comes, is how long we can stick with this and really make a difference for the people."
Muir said LDS priesthood leaders have encouraged Mormon Helping Hands to offer more than clean-up to those victimized by Harvey.
"That's a blow," he said. "It's traumatic, and as we go into homes, we hope we're not just going in with a pry bar and ripping wallboard away. We hope we're bringing in some hope. We encourage people to sit down with the people, wish them well, give them some hope and a little bit of love.
"That's as important as the work we're doing."