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Returned Missionaries Travel 2,000 Miles to Help Hurricane Survivors: "When You Love People, There Is No Distance or Anything You Won’t Do for Them”

A group of 21 young men and women—who had completed their missions in the Florida Tallahassee region for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—were back in their homes over 2,000 miles away. After learning of the devastation from Hurricane Michael, their call to serve again was no question. They piled into four vehicles in Provo, Utah, and traveled over 30 hours to their former service area. Their goal was to help the devastated victims in Panama City, Florida, arriving in time to help in the October 20-21 weekend relief effort.

Joey Hollinger, from Lehi, Utah, explained, “When God sort of laid it all out for me so I could go, I just had to.”

Photo by Clarissa Vargas

We caught up with one of their work teams Saturday afternoon.

“As missionaries we became friends while working in this area and have kept in touch since getting back home,” said Vanessa Wall, from Farmington, Utah.

“When we heard about this disaster, we knew we needed to come back to our second ‘home’ and help out the people we came to love here,” said Olivia Fast, from Palmdale, California.

All weekend they worked at homes in the Panama City area cutting up fallen trees and moving the debris to the street for community pick up. Over 3,000 Church member volunteers from six states converged to serve the storm victims in the disaster area from Marianna to Mexico Beach over the past two weekends.

“When you love people, there is no distance or anything you won’t do for them,” added former missionary, Trevor Burningham, from Layton, Utah.


A hotline: 1-800-451-1954, has been established for people who need some volunteer help with cleanup. It will be open from now until November 2, 2018. As they are able, reputable and vetted relief agencies may assist families with cutting fallen trees, removal of wet drywall, insulation, flooring, furniture, appliances, adding tarps to cover damaged roofs, etc. All services are free, but service is not guaranteed due to the overwhelming need. There were 4,000 requests received the first week following the storm. Once work orders are received, they are placed on a website where volunteer organizations can review and select work that they can perform.

For individuals who would like to volunteer, refer to the website www.JustServe.org. Look for the header “Help with current relief efforts” and click on the Hurricane Michael button.

Lead image by Billie Nicholson
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