Photo Essay

Mormonism in Pictures: Helping Hands Provide Flood Relief

In today's Mormonism in Pictures, we feature Mormon Helping Hands assisting with flood relief efforts in High River, Alberta. It has been nearly three weeks since the Highwood River flooded, an event that placed the town of 13,000 at the epicentre of the worst flooding disaster in the province's history.

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To date, over 5,800 volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have put in over 30,000 hours to clear and clean out flooded homes in southern Alberta.

Volunteer Darrel Nelson describes the scene as one "right out of a blockbuster disaster movie ... house after house with huge piles of debris stacked on the front lawn." Nelson went with Ken Steed, a member of the Church who assembled a group and took a two-hour bus ride from Raymond, Alberta, to assist residents in High River. Nelson said, "Some homeowners were sifting through the rubble; others were sitting numbly on their front steps as if uncertain where to even begin."

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"It was a challenging task to approach a home that had a mountain of debris sitting on the front lawn," said Nelson. "With the combined effort of many hands, the piles of debris yielded and front lawns gradually became visible once more. ... The expression of relief and appreciation on the faces of the homeowners was truly gratifying. Without fail, each homeowner thanked us warmly and expressed disbelief at how quickly the Church had responded to the call for help.”

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Local Church leader Elder Larry Spackman, left, leads volunteers to clear furniture and heavy appliances from homes to load into dumpsters. Many Church leaders are also working behind the scene with local agencies and other volunteer groups to assist in disaster relief efforts across the affected areas.

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Mormon Helping Hands volunteers work to rip out insulation, gyprock, ceiling materials and flooring in flooded homes. Volunteer Corey Bevans reports, "In many cases the water filled the basements to the ceilings."

High River United Church

Reverend David Robertson and Reverend Susan Lukey from the United Church in High River, Alberta, thank Mormon Helping Hands crew leader Grant Hill. Hill coordinated a team of Mormon volunteers to clean up the United Church after severe floods damaged the town.

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A command centre has been set up in the Church meetinghouse in Okotoks, Alberta. Volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints receive requests from homeowners and fill out work orders that are passed along to teams of volunteers, who receive equipment and prepare for clean-up efforts at the chapel. Members of the affected community have been offered clothing, food and other relief items.

Grant Hirsche, the bishop of the High River congregation, says, "The Church is there and will help us. It is amazing to watch the organization and skill. There is tremendous good in our community. … I am absolutely overwhelmed by the support and love of hundreds and hundreds of phone calls.” 

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Local Church coordinator Randy Vermeeren says, "The ox is in the mire. It is the Sabbath and we are in great need of volunteers." Congregations in the Woodgate chapel in Okotoks, Alberta, meet together for an abbreviated Church service before heading out to assist in flood relief efforts. Vermeeren reports, "It’s going really well. It is humbling to see how willing members are to help.”

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A Mormon missionary tag is covered in mud while a missionary assists in flood relief efforts in High River, Alberta. The Mormon Helping Hands program reflects the desire of Mormons to follow the example of Jesus Christ by serving others.

Residents in the area have shown appreciation for the volunteer efforts from the Church. One tearful woman said, “We’re so grateful for the help from the Mormons. Everyone in town is talking about what you are doing.” 

Mormon volunteers continue to fill work orders, expressing gratitude for the opportunity to help. “Our journey was a positive and unforgettable experience," said Nelson. "It was uplifting to see the resiliency and determination of our friends and neighbours in High River and know that in our own small way, we are making a difference."

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