Mormons are among the many faith-based organizations who've pitched in to assist in the post-Sandy relief effort. More than 5,000 are expected to volunteer this weekend in areas affected by the storm. Members say the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint's tradition of preparedness has helped mobilize both volunteers and supplies quickly.
Elder Jeffrey Olson of New Jersey, is an organizer for Helping Hands, the church’s community service and relief program. He said Mormons are encouraged to be ready for a range of emergencies and disasters. "One of our teachings is if you are prepared you shall not fear, so preparation is an important part of our culture,” Olson reflected.
Every congregation is required to have a disaster plan, and individual members are asked to keep at least a several month supply of food, water and other items on hand. Olson said the stockpile of supplies the church sets aside allows them to load trucks and send out supplies immediately.
Since Sandy hit, the church has already donated about 300,000 pounds of relief supplies, including pumps, tarps, generators and cleaning products.
Olson added the church is also able to marshal a large quantity of boots on the ground. In less than a month, he said more than 10,000 volunteers have been working to speed the cleanup throughout the tri-state area. This weekend volunteers from as far away as Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia will be focused on helping storm victims remove and clean debris — with an eye on preventing mold from growing or spreading in damaged homes.
Olson said he wouldn’t be surprised if the Mormon practice of preparing for life’s emergencies becomes a more widespread practice.
“It’s about living prudently and being ready for the challenges that come,” he said.