Members quick to respond in midwest floods

While relatively few members of the Church have lost property to the floods in the midwestern United States, most members have had their lives affected.

Flooding on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries has affected seven states, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate their homes, and thousands of homes have been damaged. The cost of damage to property and farmland is climbing into billions of dollars. At least 19 deaths have been blamed on the floods.A few LDS families have been driven from their homes, and many in the Des Moines, Iowa, area had their water supply cut off when a treatment plant was flooded. And almost every family in the flood areas has been inconvenienced by submerged roads, damaged or endangered bridges and power outages.

Members have been quick to respond to neighbors in need, according to Church leaders.

"It's been very rewarding to see the Church in action and see the way in which members help members," said Pres. Robert Wagstaff of the Des Moines Iowa Stake. "I called some bishops in the stake and they said, `We're taking care of ourselves and haven't needed to call on you.' Some bishops have called to see if they could do anything to help and I didn't have anything."

Carl McClaine, manager of the bishops' storehouse in the St. Louis area, said: "I am personally amazed at how well members have worked together with each other and with the community to meet needs. Davenport Iowa Stake Pres. [JoelT Orgill received phone calls from 10 stake presidents offering help."

Pres. Orgill reported to Brother McClaine that 327 homes were threatened and 70 families evacuated in the Davenport area, but none were members of the Church.

In Des Moines, about 250,000 residents had their lives impacted.

At 2 a.m. on July 11, the word went out that the city's water treatment plant was going to be shut down. Through Church channels, most members in the stake were notified by 3:30 a.m., allowing them time to fill all containers available with water for emergency use, according to Pres. Wagstaff. He added that the stake center in West Des Moines, served by another water system, was opened to members so they could use the shower facilities and refill containers with water. Members in that area also shared their water with other members, he said.

Ten member families in Des Moines had to be evacuated from their homes because of flooding. As with most people who have had to leave their homes, those members have been taken in by relatives, friends or other members of the Church.

Brother McClaine said there hasn't been a need so far to set up public shelters.

Most wards in the Des Moines area canceled Church meetings Sunday, July 11, according to Pres. Wagstaff, because of travel difficulties and because many members were involved with personal concerns and were helping with sandbagging.

Pres. Neal Lewis of the St. Louis Missouri North Stake said four families in his stake had to evacuate their homes.

Brother McClaine said that about 10 member families have had to leave their homes in the three stakes in the St. Louis area and that number may rise to 20. However, he reported that most members of the Church, as well as the population in general, live far enough above the flood plains to escape direct damage.

He also said damage to homes is limited to basements in many cases.

"We've been very fortunate that we have not had as many members affected by the flooding as you would believe by watching the media," he said.

Although nothing has been formally organized through the Church, members are pitching in by helping place sandbags around homes and businesses and are helping in any other way they can.

Still ahead, said Brother McClaine, is the cleanup effort. "When the TV cameras are gone, that's when a lot of the work is going to take place."

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