How the Church organizes Helping Hand volunteer efforts

Mason Sagers of Canton, Georgia, along with other volunteers help clean up debris and fallen trees caused by Hurricane Sally in Pensacola, Florida, on Sunday, October 18, 2020. The hurricane brought 100-mile-per-hour winds and millions of dollars in damag Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
A map demonstrating areas that are in need of cleanup. This tool is called “Crisis Cleanup” and is an invaluable tool for communities to use during disasters. The “Crisis Cleanup” was developed by a Latter-day Saint several years ago. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Helping Hands volunteers place a tarp on the roof of a damaged house in Pensacola, Florida, in October, 2020. A hurricane brought 100-mile-per-hour winds and millions of dollars in damage to homes and property in the region. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
A Helping Hands crew prays with a family receiving help. They are grateful for the opportunity to serve and offer a blessing over the family in Pensacola, Florida, on Sunday, October 18, 2020. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.
Sunset in Pensacola, Florida, on Saturday, October 17, 2020. Volunteers spend the nights camping in tents to later wake up early in the morning and continue the cleanup. Credit: Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

Three hurricanes hit the U.S. gulf coast within six weeks this fall. Following each disaster, thousands of volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints , or Helping Hands, responded.

The Church’s preparedness process begins months before hurricane season begins. The Church stores relief supplies at larger bishops’ storehouses in locations around the country that ensure an easy delivery of emergency efforts and supplies when they are needed.

Michael Lavoie, a Southeast United States area welfare specialist, told Newsroom that “once we see something brewing … in the Atlantic or in the Gulf, we have area welfare specialists that monitor those [storms] and alert the Area Seventies that there may be a storm hitting landfall.”

The area welfare specialists then create a plan based on the storm’s path, including where to run a command center.

“The command center’s job is to prioritize those work orders to identify where to send all of these volunteers that are coming in from all over so that they can have a great experience when they come work, but also that we make the greatest impact in the community,” said Lavoie.

Read more about how Helping Hands disaster relief efforts are organized on Newsroom.

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