What came as hard rains and ruined landscapes for some was a total disaster in parts of the Silverado Canyon in Southern California. When that disaster came, Leslie Paskus, member of the Inter-Canyon League, along with Brett and Chay Peterson, knew they could call The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints for help. Mormon Helping Hands is not new to the canyon. The bright yellow vested volunteers, the world-wide calling card for Mormon Helping Hands, were there in force for the 2007 Silverado fire, the subsequent mud slide and a renewal project just last April.
According to Danny Ater, a Silverado Canyon resident, "It all started on Dec. 22, 2010, when I heard the loudest thunder ever. I went outside and realized it wasn't thunder, but gigantic boulders hitting the ground." The devastation has been widespread in the canyon, where the mud has literally filled front yards, driveways and even entire homes.
This time the project was so large that the Santa Margarita California Stake called in Mormons from all across Orange County. Brett Peterson, a long-time resident of Silverado Canyon, told reporters that "helping your neighbor is just a part of being a community." Chay Peterson, his wife, said that "when you live in the canyon, you have to stick together. You can't wait for the city to come, because they might never come."
James Whitesides is the Church's emergency response director for the Mormon Helping Hands in Orange County. He said, "I think I was most surprised at the extent of the damage wrought by the fierce storms." This project is ongoing and started on January 1st and because of rains in the later part of February, might even go on until April.
Mormons from all over Orange County including Orange, Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Fullerton, Irvine and Anaheim were asked to volunteer on designated Saturdays of January and February.
Watch a video covering the volunteer efforts in Silverado.