SALT LAKE CITY — Evacuees returning home to confront the mayhem and mildew left behind by Katrina and Rita will have some help with their massive mop-up task, compliments of hundreds of volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 

At a Church storehouse in Tucker, Georgia, church volunteers came together last week to assemble and ship out 10,000 cleaning kits. Another 30,000 will follow as the effort continues in Tucker and in Orlando, Florida.

Each kit includes a gallon of bleach, a 13-ounce bottle of disinfectant dish soap, two pairs of heavy latex gloves, two stiff scrub brushes, three medium sponges, a box of heavy-duty trash bags, a spray bottle, a measuring cup and some rags.  Numerous relief agencies in the Gulf Coast region have requested the kits.

When the Church issued a call for 450 volunteers to prepare the kits, 600 members from congregations in the metropolitan Atlanta area showed up last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Following that three-day effort, three truckloads, each containing 1,872 kits, made their way to the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department in Gulfport, Mississippi. 

A fourth truckload arrived at the Islamic Relief Center (IRC) in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Thursday, 29 September. The IRC and local partners in the relief effort such as the city council, Salvation Army and Urban Life Ministries took applications in advance of the kits’ arrival and are distributing them to hundreds in the Biloxi community. 

Twenty-thousand more kits under assembly in Orlando this week will reach Louisiana on Saturday, including 5,000 to the Kenner Food Bank.  Ongoing volunteer operations in the Tucker storehouse next week will yield an additional 10,000 kits by 6 October for distribution to other hurricane-stricken areas.

“I was just glad to help in some small way, since I couldn’t go down and wield a chainsaw,” said volunteer Marci Ladd, a mother of four from Lilburn, Georgia, in reference to the thousands of her faith who have continued weekend excursions, chainsaws in hand, to clear debris from yards in the storms’ paths.  

“I just wish I could send my hands with the buckets to help even more,” she said.

“Many homes incurred internal damage as a result of flooding,” explained Mostafa Mahboob, who heads hurricane-relief operations at the Islamic Relief Center in Biloxi.  “Providing the materials to clean up homes is an important part of getting lives back to normal. 

The initiative has brought religious communities and civic leaders together in the joint effort to help people with the daunting cleanup task.  In Kenner, Louisiana, a city that only last June issued a proclamation honoring the Church’s ongoing service contributions, Mayor Philip L. Capitano asked for continuing faith and prayers in a meeting with Scott N. Conlin, president of the multiple congregations that constitute the New Orleans Louisiana Stake.

The ongoing cleaning-kit initiative will have mobilized about a thousand volunteers in the Georgia and Florida assembly operations by the time it concludes next week.  In acquiring and distributing the materials to thousands caught up in the cleanup task, the Church will have spent more than $600,000 of humanitarian-aid contributions offered by concerned members. 

These efforts are part of the Church’s larger relief activity, coordinated from its command center in Slidell, Louisiana.  Other elements have involved the shipment of dozens of truckloads of emergency and relief supplies, continuing waves of weekend chain saw crews cutting through tons of downed trees throughout the Gulf Coast region, employment services and emotional counseling.  

“We are very appreciative,” Cheryl Hicks of the Harrison County Sheriff’s Department said. “You never know who your extended family is until something like this happens.”