LDS Church News

Saints giving, receiving service in storm-ravaged Arkansas

By R. Scott Lloyd

LDS Church News

Published: Friday, May 16 2014 12:40 p.m. MDT

Tree root falls back into its position as it is severed from its trunk by LDS volunteers in the LIttle Rock, Arkansas, area on May 10, 2014. Trees felled by tornado in Fernwood area west of Little were cut up to faciitate their removal from property.

R. Scott Lloyd


Larry Kingrey set his chainsaw down for a moment, wiped the sweat from his brow and reflected on the experience of serving others in their time of need.

He has helped others recover from natural disasters three different times.

“I’ve been all over Arkansas when there’s been a need,” said Brother Kingrey, a member of the Benton Ward, Little Rock Arkansas Stake.

This time, the need struck very close indeed for Brother Kingrey.

On April 27 and 28, a string of tornadoes tore through the south-central United States. The cities of Velonia and Mayflower, north of Little Rock, were among the hardest hit.

Three homes belonging to Church members in the Parkwood Meadows subdivision of Vilonia were impacted:

Brother Kingrey’s son and daughter-in-law, Brett and Leslie Kingrey, and their two children, members of the Cabot Ward, lost their home.

Daniel Wassom Jr. died protecting his 5-year-old daughter, Lorelai, as their home was destroyed. His wife, Suzanne, and their 7-year-old daughter, Sydney, were injured. They are members of the Conway 2nd Ward.

Also impacted was the home of Dustin and Bryn Briscoe and their children Carter, 3, and Cate, 1. Sister Briscoe is a member of the Cabot Ward.

Larry Kingrey in many ways epitomizes Latter-day Saints in this area who are helping loved ones and friends, receiving help themselves, reaching out to others in the community and expressing gratitude and devotion to a loving God who has blessed them in their time of need.

“I helped my son first,” he said. “I went up there [to Vilonia] after we could get in and helped him clear away the debris that was left over. Then I started going around and helping other people.”

Brother Kingrey was one of an estimated 1,000 Church members in the four Arkansas stakes of Little Rock, North Little Rock, Searcy and Fort Smith who gathered at Vilonia and Mayflower on Saturday, May 3, the weekend following the storm, to help clear away rubble and recover lost treasures. Most were clad in the yellow “Helping Hands” T-shirts that have become the trademark of Latter-day Saints who help in such situations.

The next Saturday, May 10, Church members went to Ferndale, a rural community west of Little Rock, where houses and buildings were not as damaged, but where the storms had felled trees that needed to be cut up and piled in preparation to be cleared away from property.

In these efforts, Latter-day Saints have joined innumerable others in the community from churches and other groups in a fellowship of service coordinated by local authorities.

“Your group is awesome!” exclaimed Allen Hubbard of the Palaski County Fire Department to a Church member on the day that the fallen trees were being cleared.

Beyond these more visible efforts, Church members are finding other ways to help. Renee Carr, Searcy Arkansas Stake director of public affairs, told of stake members tying and finishing quilts to comfort tornado victims while Primary children assembled portable office kits, an item that can be useful to displaced home owners as they organize and make lists in trying to put their lives back together.