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Mormon meetinghouse to become Harvey cleanup command center

SPRING, Texas — Mormon Helping Hands volunteers helped Ken Meriovsky carry furniture and other belongings upstairs in his home last Sunday as the water levels rose in his neighborhood.

On Thursday, some of those same folks from the Klein Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hauled out everything the 2 feet of water ruined on the main floor of the 65-year-old carpenter’s home.

“It was a blessing,” Meriovsky said as he took cellphone video of each item being toted to the curb. “You’re church is powerful. My sister’s a Mormon.”

Hundreds of Latter-day Saint volunteers descended on Houston area neighborhoods to start mucking out the homes of fellow church members and anyone who, like Meriovsky, needed a hand.

"I've never seen anything like this, and I've never seen a coalescing of a community more tightly than here in Houston. It is absolutely amazing," said Albert Haines, the city's former chief administrative officer and a member of the Klein LDS Stake. "This a great town."

Meantime, the LDS Church's Cypress Stake Center in Tomball will become a command post for Harvey cleanup efforts after being used as an impromptu shelter and boat rescue operations center earlier this week.

No supplies had arrived by Thursday morning, but volunteers were taking all the clothes, food and baby items collected during the meetinghouse's time as a temporary shelter to donate to emergency first responders' families who have lost everything in Harvey.

LDS Church members are working with other nonprofit organizations to provide flood relief to flood victims in Houston, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Dallas and surrounding areas.

Mormons in the area are also volunteering to evacuate people and provide temporary shelter. Church leaders have offered the use of church buildings.

At least three meetinghouses have been set up to temporarily shelter evacuees. Hundreds of Mormon Helping Hands volunteers are expected to turn out Thursday in the Houston area for cleanup, as well as farther south in Corpus Christi on Saturday.

In Klein, members of the church's Klein Stake gathered early Thursday to get their work assignments in neighborhoods throughout the community. On Wednesday, church members assembled new wheelbarrows and gathered Otter sleds, shovels, brooms, gloves, bleach and disinfectant to prepare for the house guttings.

"The first thing that we could be doing is to help muck out the homes, tear out the drywall, the carpet, just letting it dry before all the mold sets," said Klein Stake President Rob Ellis.

Church members in the area — who have also provided relief after floods in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and east Texas — stand ready to help, he said.

"Now we're just reminding people that God has not forgotten us. This is our time to stand and to love and be loved, serve and be served," said President Ellis, who was called as stake president four months ago.

Kleinwood Ward members Lisa Skipper and Jacqueline Glavez carried waterlogged furniture out their bishop's house a few doors down from Merionvsky's home.

"They've lost so much and I've lost nothing, so I want to help," said Skipper, her voice quavering. "It's sad, but it feels good to be helpful."

Galvez, wearing a respiratory mask like many other volunteers, said she had a duty to pitch in because she was spared from the disaster.

"I've seen people of different color, different belief come together and help each other across the water," she said.

Missionaries in the region are also starting to help at local shelters. As floodwaters recede and larger community cleanup efforts begin, missionaries will join in those efforts, according to Mormon Newsroom. At least two sister missionaries jumped into the action Wednesday helping a family in Klein.

Nine trucks filled with supplies from the church’s Bishop's Central Storehouse and Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake City have arrived or are on their way with water, hygiene kits, food, fresh milk, cleaning supplies, clothing, diapers and wipes, according to the church. Another truck will also be sent to Houston.

The LDS Church is also assisting the Red Cross and Convoy of Hope in their relief efforts to help the thousands of displaced people in Texas with food, water, cleaning kits and hygiene items. The church is working with Adventist Community Services in Houston.

Water and hygiene kits have been delivered to the San Antonio Food Bank and Red Cross. An estimated 30,000 evacuees are in shelters in that community.

The LDS Church has provided funds, supplies and equipment and will work with its local ecclesiastical leaders to provide additional aid as needed.

As Harvey hits Louisiana, additional funds have been sent to the area in anticipation of possible flooding in region, according to Mormon Newsroom.

Also, more assessments have been made at the Houston Texas Temple, where flooding has caused significant damage.

In the temple basement, water rose from nearly a foot deep to waist deep in some areas. The baptistery room was flooded to the top. On the main floor, several inches of water will require the replacement of carpet and furniture, according to the church.