SALT LAKE CITY — Victims hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi are already receiving aid from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Emergency relief supplies and food commodities from Church storehouses in the southeastern United States have been delivered to Church meetinghouses serving as shelters and relief centers in the disaster area.
Congregational leaders are distributing the much-needed supplies to Church members and their neighbors regardless of religious affiliation. Supplies are also going to inland Church buildings temporarily housing storm evacuees.
Fourteen truckloads of pre-positioned food, water and emergency equipment have already been delivered to Church buildings in the coastal areas devastated by Katrina’s winds, storm surge and consequent flooding. And more aid is on its way from Salt Lake City.
Twelve semitrailer loads of additional supplies have left the Church’s central storehouse in Salt Lake City over the past few days en route to the southeast to resupply the regional storehouses and selected meetinghouses.
Emergency supplies in the shipments include bottled water, family hygiene kits, generators, tents, sleeping bags, flashlights and batteries, tarps, temporary roofing materials, chain saws and hand tools. Food commodities include canned and dry goods that are easy to prepare and require little or no additional ingredients, such as beef stew, chili, pork and beans, tuna fish, soups, fruits and cereals.
The American Red Cross and local governments in the impact area have asked the Church to provide family hygiene kits (soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, hand towels) for thousands of families forced out of their homes by flooding and wind damage. Tens of thousands of hygiene kits were pre-positioned in the Church’s southeast regional storehouses, and more hygiene kits are in the resupply shipment from Salt Lake.
Local Church leaders who serve as lay volunteers have been watching over their congregation members since storm warnings began last week. Many members evacuated from coastal areas to take shelter in Church meetinghouses and with other Church members in Alexandria, Louisiana; and in Jackson and Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
To date, congregational leaders have received no reports of deaths or serious injuries among Latter-day Saints in the disaster area. However, among the most heartrending aspects of this disaster is that hundreds, if not thousands, of people remain unaccounted for including some Church members whom local leaders have not yet been able to contact.
Church missionaries were evacuated last weekend from coastal areas in Louisiana and Mississippi. All are now safely accounted for. Many missionaries are providing assistance with relief efforts, especially in clearing away debris and distributing supplies.
Past experience with severe hurricanes in the Southeast prompted the Church to pre-position relief supplies in its regional storehouses in Texas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida. This preparation plus the transport capabilities of the Church’s welfare program trucking system have enabled the Church to respond quickly to meet the needs of its members and others affected by Katrina, one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
In Utah, Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. has announced that the state will provide temporary housing for 1,000 people left homeless by Katrina. At the request of state officials, the Church will assist with feeding the evacuees, who are expected to arrive in Salt Lake City over the weekend.
Since its earliest years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has organized to assist its members to provide for the physical, spiritual, social and emotional welfare of themselves and others. The Church’s emergency response efforts and other humanitarian services are provided in accordance with Christian principles of caring and concern for others.
Humanitarian efforts are financially supported through the voluntary contributions of Church members who fast one day each month and donate at least the value of the meals missed. Donations from friends of the Church also support emergency relief and other humanitarian programs.