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As the flooded Mississippi, Cedar, Iowa and White rivers crested June 17 and 18, Church members came forward in massive numbers to offer help and assistance to residents of Indiana, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin.
"We are committed," said President Paul Johnson of the Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake, where more than 60 Latter-day Saint homes were destroyed or damaged by record-breaking flooding.
Flood waters that breached dozens of levees along the Mississippi River in the Midwest United States this June have killed five people, displaced some 38,000, caused $1.5 billion in damage, and knocked out electricity and water treatment plants in several cities. More than 400 city blocks have been inundated in Cedar Rapids alone.
All members and missionaries in the area are safe. However, dozens of Church members are temporarily out of their homes.
In response to the disaster, the Church sent 16 truckloads of supplies — including shovels and wheelbarrows — to the impacted area; members distributed 26,000 cleaning kits and 15,000 hygiene kits, according to a Church Welfare Services report.
Flooding in Iowa followed a devastating tornado that destroyed more than two-thirds of Parkersburg, a small town located in the Cedar Rapids Iowa Stake. The homes of two member families were lost in the tornado.
President Johnson said the Church is committed to providing Latter-day Saint work crews in Parkersburg through December to assist in the clean-up efforts.
"We are in this for the long haul," said President Johnson. "We are not going to show up and disappear."
Now, he added, the stake will also participate in long-term flooding clean-up efforts in the area, where some communities will be without power indefinitely.
Before the water breached the levees, Latter-day Saints also participated in sandbagging efforts, he said. Missionaries in Cedar Rapids provided "an endless source of energy," he added.
Even with all the effort, President Johnson said 95 percent the work is still ahead of the stake, which has received calls from Church members around the nation wanting to help.
"We have not neglected neighbors or community members. It is going to be a long process. We are proceeding with caution," he said, noting that many service efforts will be in areas filled with contaminated water.
Currently, he said, the Church is providing volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday to staff a Salvation Army kitchen that provides meals for flood victims and emergency response personnel. Latter-day Saints will also assist a local community organization distributing newsletters with essential information to all victims in the 500-year flood plain.
"The real work starts now," said Ralph Watts, Des Moines Iowa Region Welfare Specialist who also serves in the Iowa legislature.
"What we need to do is to mobilize, not only to help members, but to help the community try to clean out their homes and generally try to recover from the flood. That will go on over the next several months. A major community effort will be involved."
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