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ROCKAWAYS, New York — Thousands are still in need after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, so Helping Hands are there by the thousands.
Helping Hands — volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — are joining with people of other faiths and government agencies to clean homes and clear out debris left behind by the superstorm. So far, more than 7,700 LDS Church members and missionaries have logged more than 80,000 hours of service in the storm's cleanup.
They travel by subway, then hop on buses. One team headed to Rockaways, New York to help one of the hardest hit areas. A filmmaker by the name of Joshua Brown documented their labors on Sunday, Nov. 11.
"No family can do this on their own, actually. Honestly, this is why I came on a mission — to help the people of New York, whether it be preach the gospel, or un-flood a basement," said a missionary in the film.
Those in need, with their homes underwater and their belongings destroyed, expressed gratitude for the help they have been given.
"It's been a godsend. We really need it. This whole area has been devastated," said one man in need.
Casey Gonzalez, in a SKYPE interview with KSL, displayed his Mormon Helping Hands vest looks like at the beginning of the day, and at the end. He's in charge of emergency preparedness and response for Latter-day Saints in New York City.
"The response is so positive, and the cool thing is, I think it spreads a feeling that these people haven't been forgotten," Gonzalez said. "...The neat thing about being out there face-to-face is that we're able to assess what that person needs and not give any more and not give any less, so it's a great experience."
When the worst happens, it can bring out the best.
"With people like you, we know everything's going to be all right and we had faith in God, and we're just so grateful," said one woman in the film. "Thank you so much for everything, I can't tell you how much it means to us."
"The community started to talk to each other, they realize who you are now, they're looking for you," said a police officer in the film. "You don't even need to wear the yellow vests for them to know who you are right off the bat — and that's a beautiful testimony to what you're doing down here."
The kind of labor-intense volunteer work has been happening for weeks now and will continue, probably for a couple of months.