LOCAL NEWS

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members help clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Ian

Oct 1, 2022, 9:48 PM | Updated: Oct 3, 2022, 5:54 am

FORT MYERS, Florida — The recovery from Hurricane Ian will take months as it’s on pace to become Florida’s most expensive natural disaster. Still, hundreds of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are doing their part to start that process.

Church members, like Brad Westover, said the call to help clean up seems to be getting more frequent in recent years.

“Everybody that experiences a hurricane has some form of PTSD,” Westover said.

Maybe in the frightening moments that many have shared, the storms are powerful enough to wash yachts onto streets though it’s likely more in how they all get through it.

Boats blown to the shores because of the hurricane.

Westover is leading a team of volunteers from a building for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“As horrible as natural disasters are, you see the best of humanity,” he said.

Through chainsaws and patched-up rooftops, they go into neighborhoods where people like Mike Titus share that experience.

“I was here. Stood right there by that garage door, and I seen washers and dryers going 30 40 feet in the air, just like they paper,” Titus recalls.

Mike Titus, a volunteer who is helping with the clean-up.

Even though they share the traumatic experience with each other, Titus hopes they can now share the part where they help each other.

“We have plenty of Boston butts, ribs, chicken, we have all that,” Titus said. “So we’re going to fire up the smoker and feed everybody in here for free.”

It’s something everyone understands.

While Church member volunteers are out by the hundreds on Saturday, they’ll be out in the thousands in the weeks to come. Many of the hardest-hit areas are opened up, and many of them are a dozen or more hours from home to do it.

Church volunteers gather outside a local chapel with Brad Westover (right).

“We’re here together, we’re all in this together, and when things go down, we go down together, we pull together, and we make good things happen,” said Kent Nelson, a Church volunteer.

It’s the same thing that drives Titus to feed a neighborhood, even when his own family is struggling. He said some here haven’t eaten for a couple of days.

“Because it’s what God wants me to do, you know what I’m saying? Sorry, it’s what God wants me to do. I can’t do anything,” Titus said.

Natural disaster or not, it’s that compassion that brings us together.

“But it’s going to be alright, it’s going to be alright,” he reassures.

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Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints members help clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Ian