10,000 members help clean 39 miles of river

About 10,000 members of the Church joined in a community clean-up effort of a 39-mile stretch of the Salt River in the Phoenix, Ariz., area May 22.

The approximately 20,000 total volunteers - according to estimates by state officials - spent the morning of the state-sponsored project clearing away garbage and debris spread over the river bed during January flooding after heavy winter rain storms.Members involved in clean-up efforts were from 37 stakes from a 50-mile radius in central Arizona and included Boy Scouts from six Boy Scout districts in the Grand Canyon Boy Scout Council.

Elder W. Dea Montague, regional representative for the Mesa Arizona Region, told the Church News: "The support of Church members and Scouting units was outstanding. All participated willingly and enjoyed working together in a community effort. The efforts of the members were applauded by community leaders, one of whom made the following statement: `You really came through and saved the day for us.' The governor [Fife SymingtonT expressed gratitude for the efforts of the members and the Boy Scouts."

He related that the rains that caused the flooding were answers to prayers offered by the saints for a drought to end, "but the rain caused an excessive burden on our water system. We have a system of lakes for flood control and with all of the storms that came there had to be a release of those waters. The result was that our normally dry Salt River bed that comes down through the center of the state was flooded."

He said the waters eroded the banks of 27 garbage landfills, causing garbage to spread over the river bed from Phoenix down past Yuma, more than 150 miles southwest of Phoenix, to where the Salt River meets with the Colorado River.

After the flooding, local Church and Boy Scout leaders approached state officials and offered help, said Elder Montague, who is assigned by the area presidency to be the Church's liaison to the Grand Canyon Boy Scout Council.

"We could provide one commodity that the state couldn't provide," he continued, "and that was machines [peopleT that bend at the waist, pick things up and put those things in garbage bags."

Elder Montague said the Church wasn't seeking recognition or attention in joining the clean-up process, but was supportive in encouraging members to volunteer. He added that the project was an excellent way of building bridges of friendship throughout central Arizona.

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