Welfare Moment: Volunteers Gave Hope, Comfort, and Friendship Following Hurricane Katrina in 2005

  • 7 September 2017

Church members remove wallboard in a home damaged during Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana in 2005.

Article Highlights

  • Church service volunteers donated 17,400 days of service after Hurricane Katrina.
  • Volunteers helped clear wet carpet and mold-infested sheet rock from one woman’s home.

In the weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the Church sent 140 truckloads—5.6 million pounds of supplies, or 2,800 tons—of commodities, food, and hygiene items to the Gulf Coast.

In total, volunteers cleaning up after Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi donated 17,400 days of service and completed about 7,100 work orders. Perhaps no image can better capture what the Church did than the volunteer tent cities that sprung up on weekends surrounding Latter-day Saint meetinghouses in the area.

David Frey and 14 other Church members from Houston, Texas, traveled to Slidell, Louisiana, to help hurricane victims. There they met a 74-year-old German woman who had been sleeping on a towel in her kitchen because her home had been severely flooded. Mold was growing on the sheet rock.

When the team knocked on the door, they were met with hesitation. They followed another man who had called on the woman earlier in the week. He said he was with a tree cutting business and needed a deposit to start work removing downed foliage from her yard. The woman, not a member of the Church, paid the man and never saw him again.

The Church crew assured the woman they were different, that they were doing service and did not want money. She let them into her home and showed them what appeared to be insurmountable tasks: removing her carpet and sheet rock. Immediately the men went to work—for most of the day they performed exhausting work pulling wet carpet.

At the end of the day, the men told the woman they wished they could do more but were out of time. With the carpet removed, they marked “done” on their work order, returned to the Slidell storehouse, and reported to their project supervisor.

“I mentioned how hard a project it had been and that she still had mold on her walls,” said Frey. “The work project supervisor looked at me in silence and slowly slid the work order form back to me and told me, ‘You need to go back and remove the mold-infested sheet rock from this woman’s home.’”

The next day the men returned to the woman’s house. With the help of another LDS work crew, they pulled all the moldy sheet rock.

A member of the relief team had served a mission in Germany and had the chance to speak to the woman in her native tongue. That day, Frey observed, the woman was given something more important than a mold-free home; she was given “hope, comfort, and friendship.”