Latter-day Saint volunteers join efforts to clean up aftermath of Hurricane Ian

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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 from the frightening moments that many have shared in the storms that are powerful enough to wash yachts onto streets. Though it's likely more in how they all get through it.

"It's like there's a train driving through your family room. It's the loudest noise and you're just hoping that your roof stays on," he said.

Westover is leading a team of volunteers from a meetinghouse of 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're paper," Titus recalled.

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 butt, ribs, chicken, we have all that," Titus said. "So we're going to fire up the smoker and feed everybody in here for free — everybody."

It's something everyone understands.

While Latter-day Saint volunteers are out by the hundreds on Saturday, they'll be out in the thousands in the weeks to come as many of the hardest-hit areas are opened up. Many of those volunteers will come from a dozen or more hours from home to do it.

"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, another church volunteer.

Mike Titus, a volunteer who is helping with the cleanup in Fort Myers, Florida, on Saturday.
Mike Titus, a volunteer who is helping with the cleanup in Fort Myers, Florida, on Saturday. (Photo: Jeff Dahdah, KSL-TV)

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?" he said, becoming emotional. "Sorry, it's what God wants me to do. So I can't do nothing."

Natural disaster or not, it's that compassion that brings everyone together.

"But it's going to be alright, it's going to be alright," Titus said.


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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day SaintsU.S.Religion
Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson often doubles as his own photographer, shooting and editing most of his stories. He came to KSL in April 2011 after working for several years at various broadcast news outlets.


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