Louisiana, Texas and the Caribbean are a long way from Utah, but Red Cross volunteers from here are on the scene helping to deal with hurricane destruction as Hurricane Ike wreaks havoc.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has truckloads of cleaning and hygiene supplies packed up and heading south.
William D. Reynolds, manager of the LDS Church's Humanitarian Center, said that when he got word that Hurricane Ike was going to be worse than some of the previous hurricanes that have hit in recent months, the relief efforts were stepped up.
Ordinarily, the LDS Church's Humanitarian Center works in an ongoing fashion so it has certain target levels of inventory on hand. That way, when an emergency arises, the assistance packages are already assembled and ready to ship.
However, the center already had sent many personal hygiene kits and cleaning kits to the Louisiana area when Hurricane Gustav hit in August.
Then came word that Ike was going to be even more destructive.
"They asked us to replenish our target inventory of personal hygiene kits over three days," Reynolds said. "We had the materials on hand, but we needed a massive number of volunteers."
He sent one e-mail to a regional welfare agent for LDS Church, who in turn notified others who then notified others through the church's highly organized communication system.
The response was huge. "We asked for 90 volunteers for the morning and 90 for the afternoon for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. On Wednesday morning, 105 people showed up and 93 in the afternoon."
The same type of response occurred on the other two days. By the end of this week, the center had assembled 17,000 cleaning kits and 90,000 personal hygiene kits.
The hygiene kits include hand soap, small towels, tooth brushes, toothpaste, combs and a ziplocked plastic bag to hold it all.
The cleaning kits are 4-gallon plastic buckets with lids filled with cleansers, bleach, spray cleaner, dish detergent, hand soap, sponges, cleaning brushes and cloths, as well as eye goggles and a medical-type facial mask.
"We couldn't do this without donations and without volunteers," Reynolds said.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross sent 24 people from Utah to the Gulf Coast area to help the victims of Hurricane Gustav, especially with meals since many had been displaced from their homes or lack power. Bill Gully of Salt Lake City still is in that area working with Red Cross Emergency Response Teams that are being kept busy unloading trucks filled with much-needed meals. The Red Cross currently has 100 such trucks in Texas.
Recently, Red Cross began expanding its efforts in the South as Hurricane Ike comes roaring in and currently is mobilizing 1,200 workers in Texas, where they expect to dispense as many as 500,000 meals per day to people who are likely to be forced from their homes.
Among others, the Red Cross has moved Salt Lake resident Jana Sweeny to Houston to assist with Hurricane Ike relief efforts.The American Red Cross and its local chapters have asked for help for disaster relief funds. One can make a financial donation through www.utahredcross.org.