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More than a century of LDS-donated service

Families and other volunteers in the North America Southeast Area continue to help rebuild areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina said Elder John Anderson Area Seventy.
And four months after the devastation the death toll of Church members stands at one from Waveland who died in the disaster and two more from the same location who are missing and presumed dead. One member from New Orleans and another from Gulfport died while being transported from one medical facility to another.
Despite the arduous volunteer efforts of members in the early weeks after the Aug. 29 catastrophe many of them from the North America Southeast Area renewed their efforts over the Christmas holidays. They brought their families to the areas of damage and spent the holidays working. Many of those serving are stake youth groups.
We dont talk hours of service any more said Elder Anderson who coordinated Church relief efforts after the storm. He said the total labor donated by members since the storm is now 42138 days or more than 115 donated years. Each day is one reported by volunteers and includes days worked from early in the morning to late at night as well as days cut short to accommodate traveling long distances.
In their service Church members have assembled kitchen kits for mobile homes provided for homeless by FEMA and are now working on bedroom kits which include sheets and blankets. The materials were donated by the Church primarily out of the Atlanta Welfare Services office.
Church members assisted a Baptist congregation in Slidell La. whose building was demolished. They are also helping five congregations of other faiths including churches in Gulfport and Ocean Springs that suffered damage to their buildings.
In areas of greatest damage a considerable amount of work remains. Bishop Robert P. Garrett of the Waveland Ward who has since been called as president of the Gulfport Mississippi Stake said there are 15 homes in the stake with power and the rest of the members who have come back are living in FEMA homes. These are small and tightly placed adding to the sense of confinement for families.
Christmas was a tough time for them said President Garrett who is temporarily both bishop and stake president. He said the wreckage from the storm surge was so extensive that it is still being trucked away.
Similar challenges continue along the Mississippi coast between Pascagoula and Waveland. The rebuilding is farther ahead in Pascagoula but is still a struggle said Bishop Jay F.Taylor. Such challenges continue as building codes which are being re-written to better prepare for storms have not been finalized.
Many homeowners did not have insurance against flooding. Those included Bishop Taylor. My home sustained $50000 in damage and I got $600 from insurance. Mine is typical of a lot of families; we are not the exception.
He estimated that about a fourth of the ward moved out and have not returned. About 40-50 members live in FEMA trailers. Help has come to the ward in a variety of ways including from other churches.
Local priesthood holders have spent Saturdays helping a lot of people in reconstruction. Bishop Taylor said often an LDS crew would be working and a group of Baptists would join them. Then the bigger combined group would go off together for the next project.
The churches are coming closer together. There is not so much religious intolerance any more.
In the Church short-term missionary couples have come and additional volunteers have been a fantastic help.
I want to say how much we appreciate and thank them he said. We are very grateful to have brothers and sisters who care for us and they dont even know us. It sure makes you feel good to have the gospel and be in the Church.

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