At Houston City Council Meeting on June 24, 2015, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was recognized as the leading contributor of volunteers and time to the cleanup following the Memorial Day flooding.
City of Houston mayor, Annise Parker, said, “The response from the Latter-day Saints was so overwhelming and so immediate that it really set the standard.”
The Proclamation declared June 24, 2015 as Mormon Helping Hands Day. It read in part, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ dedicated disaster response team Mormon Helping Hands organized over 560 volunteers who have served more than 14,000 hours to help Houstonians clean up and recover from the Memorial Day flood.
“The City of Houston commends and appreciates Mormon Helping Hands for its volunteer efforts as part of the S.A.V.E. Houston initiative. Their selfless dedication toward ensuring Houston’s resilience in the face of natural disaster truly encompasses the compassionate spirit of Houston,” it continued.
Elder Daniel W. Jones of the Seventy, representing the 180 plus LDS Church congregations throughout the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast Region, accepted the proclamation on behalf of Mormon Helping Hands. Addressing city council members, Jones said, “We are just delighted to be a part of this great community. We are grateful for the privilege of showing our faith by the works that we do.” Elder Jones also presented Mayor Parker with the June 7th edition of the Church News, which featured a photo of her and a story about the city/missionary combined efforts.
The creation of the S.A.V.E. Houston initiative which helps identify those in need, particularly the elderly, disabled and low-income residents and coordinate the support efforts of volunteer groups to assist them, was heaven-blessed. Just three weeks earlier, Stirling Pack, former stake president and retired urban planner, had been called by Elder Jones as the Houston Regional Disaster Coordinator for all 20 stakes in the Houston area. At the onset of the floods, he joined fellow member Neal Rackleff, the Director of Housing and Community Development for the City of Houston to begin working on a comprehensive template for response. According to Pack, detailed regional maps received from Church Headquarters only the day before the floods, became the GIS master base map for the city’s initiative.
Several city council members expressed appreciation to the LDS Church and the nearly 40 missionaries in attendance wearing their yellow Mormon Helping Hands tee shirts. Of the nine city council members who took the council chamber microphone and individually thanked the church and the missionaries, seven made direct reference to faith and God.
Councilman Dwight Boykins of District D exclaimed, “To the youngsters in the yellow shirts – just know for certain your work doesn’t go in vain. We see you guys on weekends, we see you doing work all around the city. Just prepare yourselves for the future because God has big plans for you.”
President Brian Ashton of the Houston Texas South Mission and newly called second counselor in the Church’s Sunday School General Presidency noted, “The missionaries that serve here come from all over the world. They move in, become part of the community and take great pleasure in serving their friends and neighbors as disciples of Jesus Christ.”
President Ashton turned the massive service project over to the Assistants to the President, Elder Webster and Elder Tittle. They met with city officials, traveled with the mayor, coordinated, organized, delegated, assessed and cleaned. Elder Tittle commented that he had learned more about real life in one week than he had experienced in his entire life to that point.
“What we experienced in the Assist Houston activity were dedicated, diligent, coordinated and concentrated efforts, led by the first responder missionaries, which became consecrated service through helping those who were disabled, elderly or of little means to assist themselves in flooded neighborhoods. It exemplified the Savior’s teachings and life,” Pack said.