Youth join in clean up efforts after flooding in eastern Wyoming

Credit: Orson T. Badger
Credit: Orson T. Badger
Credit: Orson T. Badger
Credit: Orson T. Badger
Credit: Orson T. Badger


On Saturday, June 13, in the early morning hours while most people slept, 120 teenagers from Casper, Douglas and Glenrock, Wyoming, were awake, dressed and on the road for a 2 hour road trip to Lusk, Wyoming to assist in the flood cleanup efforts. Earlier on June 4, the quiet little towns of Lusk, Manville, and Van Tassell in rural, eastern, Wyoming were inundated with unexpected flash flooding causing major damage to homes, businesses, and road infrastructures. Manville was evacuated along with some residents from Lusk and the town of Lusk was left without power, electricity and potable water.

On Friday, June 5, Millard Smathers the President of the Casper, Wyoming Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, along with his presidency, coordinated with the Douglas, Wyoming Mormon Bishop Jay Darrell Locke in taking 10,000 gallons of water and generators to the hospital. President Max Joe Garlock of the Lusk Mormon congregation asked local officials and the American Red Cross what was needed. Garlock then arranged for Steven and Alexsis Clark of Casper, and the owners of ARS Flood & Fire Cleanup to meet with the American Red Cross representatives, the mayors of Manville and Lusk, and the Lusk Emergency Coordinator to see if the Casper Wyoming Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could assist in the clean-up. The Clarks were already on their way to Lusk bringing a large trailer full of commercial air movers to the Lusk officials who would then sign them out to residents in need.

Meanwhile, in Lusk at the county fairgrounds, the on-site American Red Cross Disaster Program Specialist, Amber Savage, was aware of and its creator, Aaron Titus who has assisted in the past with large disasters including Hurricane Sandy. Aaron Titus worked tirelessly to get the website up and running for Niobrara County. The website and its creators are an organization whose website provides, “real innovation in the ability to coordinate tens of thousands of volunteers from hundreds of organizations to thousands of sites after a disaster in a non-hierarchical collaborative environment,” and is an, “Open Source Disaster Relief Mapping and Work Coordination.” Aaron Titus personally called, sent text messages and assisted Clark in pulling down work orders to suit the local needs.

After the assessments were made the Clark’s requested Smathers contact the Mormon Church headquarters in Salt Lake City Utah. Arrangements were made for John and Melinda Pickrell of Casper to travel to Salt Lake City, Utah to the Mormon Humanitarian Center and Bishop’s storehouse to pick up about 6,000 lbs. of required supplies which included: cleanup kits, water, safety equipment, first aid kits, gloves, rubber boots, tools for demolition, and garbage bags.

“This is my favorite part. They do it for you, everything is all packaged on pallets and they loaded it into my dump trailer, made sure things were balanced, and they even checked my axles and put air in my tires,” Pickrell explained on the morning of June 13 as volunteers were unloading the supplies.

Local residents were given information on how to call or sign-up online with Crisis Cleanup at a town meeting and instructed on how to register and create a work order. Then volunteer aid workers of various churches and businesses could go in and claim and fulfill the work orders.

Lusk residents Charlie and Linda Shutts, whose home flooded, signed up through Crisis Cleanup after the town meeting and yet they were surprised when a large group of teenagers and their leaders showed up to assist them. Charlie Shutts was very grateful, saying, “Thank you, this is really appreciated. I am not used to standing around watching other people work.”

Over 120 Mormon teenagers who were in the middle of a Youth Conference changed their plans and came to assist in the cleanup efforts. An additional 150 adult volunteers joined the youth and they were then divided into platoons which were then sent out to fulfill the work orders. Most of the service rendered included mucking, hauling mud out of basements, removing tile, carpet, damaged sheetrock, clearing fence lines and disposing of debris.

Christine Parker, a resident of Lusk who was affected by the flooding, with emotion stated, “These young people and their leaders have just come in and they took over and worked themselves so hard hauling stuff. They are a great blessing. I don’t know what I would have done without them.”

Not only were the residents profoundly impacted by the service given so were the volunteers, especially the youth. “I enjoy the reactions we get from people when we show up and we are just teenagers,” Jaylyn Garfield of the Casper 3rd Ward said with a smile.

Elizabeth May of the Casper 8th Ward explained, “These people really need help and I want to help give it."

Her friend Abby Chambers of the Casper 6th Ward who was with her said, “I like serving people, it makes me feel good to know I am changing other people’s lives for the better."

Jacob Bertagnole a teenager from Bar Nunn Wyoming and a member of the Casper 5th Ward summed it up when he said, “I am really excited to get the opportunity to help on a real service project and to really help the people.”

Organizations that registered to help through Crisis Cleanup were: The Episcopal Diocese of Wyoming, UMCOR Wyoming Relief RMC UMC, American Red Cross, Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of Casper Wyoming, Local Administration Lusk Wyoming, Mitchell Berean Church, No Place Like Home, Prairie Hills Community Church and Wyoming VOAD. The Niobrara Southern Baptist Church assisted the Mitchell Berean Church in helping those in Manville, Wyoming.

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