Members give assistance on local levels

Church members across the United States are continuing to work together to combat freezing weather, flooding and paralyzing blizzards that dropped record-setting snow and freezing rain across the nation this winter.

Patrick Reese of Church Welfare Services in Salt Lake City said he has not received any requests for assistance from areas affected by the freezing weather and snowstorms - called the worst to hit some parts of the United States in a half-century. Weather-related problems are being taken care of on local levels, he explained.The Shenandoah Ward, Columbus Georgia Stake, recorded 100 percent home teaching during January, as priesthood holders did their part to make sure every ward member was warm and dry.

A widow living in the Midway Utah Stake stood in her ward's testimony meeting on fast Sunday to thank members for their help this winter. "I have a snow blower but I seldom have a chance to use it," she said. "My home teachers are always there to remove the snow. It gives me such a feeling of comfort and safety to know that someone cares."

Her remarks were echoed by older Church members living in areas across the United States affected by the out-of-the-ordinary-winter weather.

Church meetings were canceled because of weather in many states - including Oregon, where snow storms followed by freezing rains resulted in damage to a meetinghouse and left many members homebound. (See article on this page for information on the Portland Oregon Temple.)

A sheet of ice an inch thick covered the roads after snow storms hit the area the weekend of Jan. 27, according to Todd J. Doty, first counselor in the Portland Oregon East Stake presidency.

Pres. Paul Clayson of the Portland Oregon Stake reported that frozen pipes in the stake center burst Feb. 2, causing flooding within the building. Pres. Clayson said he got to the meetinghouse within a half hour after the problem was discovered.

"I placed one call to one brother with a wet/dry vacuum, and he called two more, and they called two more, and within a half hour, we had 10 vacuums and 20 brethren working their hearts out to put the stake center back in shape," he said. "Those kinds of things in the face of a storm is heartening - Church members gathering and rallying around a problem."

Priesthood leaders and Church members in the Portland area are also rallying around the elderly and others who may be without transportation. Pres. Clayson explained that ward leaders, home teachers and other members have been ensuring that the needy have adequate food and heat, and that their homes' pipes are not freezing.

"I'm aware of a little elderly lady who lives in a home where the heat was in question," Pres. Clayson related. "On a daily basis through the cold spell she was visited by a different member of her ward to make sure she had food, and they checked on the heat."

He added that the woman called him to tell him how wonderful her ward has been. " `You have no idea how many people in this ward acted just as though Christ were here taking care of me,' " he quoted the woman as saying.

In North Carolina, where ice coated many major streets and highways, Church members also had a hard time getting around. The Raleigh North Carolina Stake combined fast and testimony meeting Feb. 4 for the members who could get out of their driveways.

Members also came together to help a family in the stake - despite the bad weather. The family of eight, members of the Raleigh 2nd Ward, lost their home and all of their possessions in an apartment fire. The family, who was not injured in the fire, found help (shelter and essentials such as diapers and food) within hours.

Their bishop, Ralph C. Gertsch, called the teamwork he witnessed most inspiring - explaining that the elders quorum and Relief Society members began sending help immediately. "As soon as I thought of a need, someone was there to fill it. Everyone went in different directions for food and clothes or to help in any way they could," Bishop Gertsch said.

The next day, North Carolina was hit by an ice storm, which knocked out power lines and immobilized most of the state. However, work continued for the family, the bishop said.

Similar storms hit other areas of the United States. Church meeting were canceled in Washington, D.C., during two of the biggest storms to hit the area this winter, once in the middle of January and once two weeks later. Beach Drive, the main road leading to the Washington Temple, also was closed, said Jocelyn Denyer of the North America Northeast Area Public Affairs Office.

Flooding along the C&O Canal in Washington, D.C., caused damage to a toll path used extensively by Church-sponsored Boy Scout troops and other members for hiking and other recreation, Sister Denyer added. Many troops have already offered to help restore the path.

Heavy snow caused minor water damage to the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake Center. However, Stake Pres. Anthony Temple said the biggest concern in the area is removing the snow from the parking lot to make room for cars.

Pres. Temple said he found it gratifying to realize how effectively ward and stake members communicated with each other during the storms. Decisions to cancel Church meetings, he explained, were made on short notice and spread through priesthood quorums. Pres. Temple said he didn't hear of any members who weren't contacted after the winter storms.

Subscribe for free and get daily or weekly updates straight to your inbox
The three things you need to know everyday
Highlights from the last week to keep you informed