Love Thy Neighbor

by | Jun. 27, 2006

LDS Life

Shortly after, she received a phone call from Barbara Williams, a volunteer who was helping to find homes for evacuee families. She had located the very same rental home on her own and called Dave to make arrangements for an evacuee family to live there. He referred her to Claire, saying there was great interest in the neighborhood of helping an evacuee family.

When Claire got word that Kathy Phipps and her two young children from New Orleans would be moving into the neighborhood in just four days, Claire sprang into action. She went door to door distributing fliers with a brief explanation of the family’s circumstances and a list of items needed to furnish the house. Her hope was to collect enough basics to help the Phipps get by until they became more established, but the response was more than she ever dreamed. Within twenty-four hours the garage was filled with beds, couches, chairs, lamps, kitchen appliances, televisions, a computer, linens, bath towels—and the donations kept coming. In fact, after a couple of days donations even had to be turned away.

Neighbors worked tirelessly cleaning carpets, painting walls, and sorting through stacks of donated items—all for a family they had never met.

But once people heard Kathy’s story they were glad they had gone to so much effort. Kathy ended up stranded on the roof of her New Orleans home, separated from her children, when she went home to save the family dog and collect supplies. She spent more than a day enduring 120 mph winds and clinging to branches to keep from being swept away by the hurricane.

After being rescued by boat she boarded a plane with other hurricane victims, not knowing where it was headed. “Something just told me to get on the plane,” Kathy recalls. When she arrived in Utah, Barbara helped locate Kathy’s children. After Michael, age eleven, and Mickal, age eight, were reunited with Kathy, she decided to begin a new life in Pleasant Grove, Utah.

Unaware of what neighbors were doing on her family’s behalf, Kathy believed she and her children would be sleeping on the floor in a completely empty house. Instead, when she arrived she was stunned to see the streets lined with neighbors clapping and waving and children holding banners covered with words of kindness from Pleasant Grove residents. The mayor of Pleasant Grove and city council members were also on hand to personally welcome them.

Shaking and overwhelmed with emotion, neighbors escorted Kathy into a completely furnished house that was decorated and stocked full of food—there was even a roast simmering in a crock pot on the kitchen counter. “The fliers would have been nothing but litter if people hadn’t stepped in to help,” says Claire. “It’s a real miracle how quickly it all came together.” There were new bikes in the garage, and gift cards, and gift baskets from local businesses. And when one neighbor went to a nearby car dealership with the Phipps’ story, they even donated a car to the family.

What began with Claire’s door-to-door efforts grew into a whirlwind project for much of the Pleasant Grove community. They embraced the Phipps family with open arms and were and grateful for the opportunity to serve. “Everything fell into place so easily,” says Claire. “The Lord’s hand was definitely in it.”

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