Thousands of Mormons from around the United States cancelled their church services Sunday, opting instead to assist in the recovery efforts in communities affected by Hurricane Sandy.
Nearly two weeks after the storm slammed into parts of New York and New Jersey, thousands are still without heat and power.
“It’s great. They’re helping hundreds of homeowners here,” said one local resident on a video chronicling the effort dubbed Mormon Helping Hands. Volunteers donned yellow shirts so they can be readily identified by those needing help.
Since Sandy hit, members have cleared out homes and other tasks as communities try to recover from the powerful deadly storm.
Though the video focuses on Rockaway, N.Y., Mormons were also volunteering in Staten Island and Long Island as well as in New Jersey.
“I hope someday we can repay people like you guys did for us. It’s amazing. It’s just really overwhelming,” said one tearful woman.
It is inspiring, said Michael Otterson, head of public affairs for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, about the footage and the efforts of Mormons in the region. Neither the video nor the effort was coordinated by the national church, but the effort represents the way wards and stakes may choose to provide assistance.
‘Mormon Helping Hands’ effort is what we often call our volunteer response. We have found that those yellow vests become quickly recognized and people respond very well when they see an army of volunteers like that. They no longer feel alone, it lifts their spirits,” Otterson said about how local congregations operate. “Local congregations can call on broader Church resources for help – like chain saws, tarps, tents etc – but the effort is organized locally.”
The Mormons’ spontaneous reaction to Sandy has also attracted assistance from others including Muslims and Catholics as well as neighbors who wanted to join the coordinated effort, which shows “the Gospel in action,” said one Mormon about the demonstration of “that spirit of brotherhood.”