Volunteers donning yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” vests have descended on western Colorado to help with clean-up efforts from the region’s historic floods.
Within 24 hours of the flood that devastated much of western Colorado (beginning Thursday, Sept. 19) wards in the area had evaluated the needs of those within their boundaries and began to respond.
In one case in the Loveland, Colo., Lakeside ward, almost 20 members responded the day after flooding began, working to clean out basements, rip up wet carpet and remove drywall and mud. The next day they expanded their efforts, with 80 members cleaning the basements of two ward members and four neighbors.
“It was some dirty work,” said Casey Marler, bishop of the Lakeside Ward. “We were wading around in who knows what — it was pretty gross — but everybody was happy to help. It was miraculous.”
The Church is using justserve.org, a website being piloted this year for Colorado and several other areas, to coordinate response efforts around the state.
One group of volunteers, including many students, worked Tuesday afternoon in Longmont, Colo., spending their week off from school to clean basements, deliver food to those devastated by the floods and clear debris from floodwaters.
“When I went into that basement I saw the water line on the ceiling, which was a good four inches above my head. I thought to myself this is awful, devastating,” said Sariah Orocu, a 14-year-old volunteer from the Union Ward in Longmont.
“It broke my heart,” she said. “But I felt proud to wear that (Mormon Helping Hands) jersey because I was working hard to serve others and it was making the Church more known throughout Longmont.”
Marler agrees, noting the effect the service has had on the community. “Most families were completely overwhelmed and had never dealt with this before,” he said. “Then to have 30 to 40 people that they didn’t know come and do it for them, they were completely overwhelmed.”
Clean-up efforts will continue with massive service projects planned over the weekend and daily efforts being coordinated through justserve.org.