Quake aftermath: 'Christlike love in action'

In the aftermath of Southern California's devastating earthquake Jan. 17, many members rallied to offer assistance to victims. One example of how Latter-day Saints pulled together to help is found in the Palos Verdes California Stake.

Stake members delivered food and supplies to thousands left homeless by the catastrophe. The members donated and collected funds to purchase food and medical, hygiene and baby supplies. Clothes and toys were also donated. Many members spent Friday, Jan. 21, organizing the purchased supplies into individual kits. That evening, caravans took more than 2,000 meals, 5,000 diapers and hundreds of hygiene and medical kits to some of the quake's hardest-hit areas.The effort was initiated by stake Pres. Randall Turner. On Wednesday, Jan. 19, Pres. Turner had received reports from three families in the stake who had become discouraged with efforts to provide food and supplies through existing relief agencies. The families decided to organize their own neighborhood effort and travel directly to the areas of greatest need. Hundreds of meals and supplies were dispersed in less than 10 minutes, and numerous families were still in need. Pres. Turner promptly called a special meeting the next night to organize the stake-wide effort. "We felt an urgency to actively reach our suffering brothers and sisters," Pres. Turner said. "With great effort and sacrifice by our stake members and the community, a small, yet significant dent was made. Much need, obviously, remains unfulfilled."

Debbie Robinson was among the first stake members to reach the disaster areas. "We were surprised at just how needy the people were," she said. "Most had absolutely nothing and were just sitting on the damp grass in total darkness."

Among the sufferers, infants were especially stricken as many became ill from the cold and went without diapers or baby food. "Our girls were crushed by the sight of the cold, hungry children and they begged us to take them back the next day to help," Sister Robinson said. "They offered every dime of their savings accounts to help purchase supplies. Our lives have been enriched forever by the opportunity we had to serve our fellowmen and by the love we received from them in return."

Ann McEuen, also among the first families to respond, echoed the same sentiments: "It felt so good to do something instead of sitting around feeling sorry and frightened for the earthquake victims. It was a wonderful experience to receive a hug and a kiss from a beautiful little grandmother to whom I'd given a blanket. At that moment I wished I had brought every blanket off every bed in my house."

A large contingent of youth also participated in the relief effort. To one stake youth, the service effort had special meaning. "The night before the earthquake I had read in Alma about how prayer without feeding the hungry and clothing the naked is vain. That scripture gave me the courage and motivation to donate money and time and to make the trip to serve the earthquake victims," he said.

A sizable percentage of the money and clothes used in the relief drive was donated by non-members and less-active members of the Church.

"The Lord really touched the hearts of many good people throughout our community," said Pres. Turner. "This relief effort was more about compassion and Christlike love in action than anything else. Among many other blessings, it served to strengthen ties with our brothers and sisters in the community we don't see on Sundays."

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