Additional Resource

Flood Relief Efforts Underway in Pacific Northwest

Coordinated support across stakes, states and faiths

February winter storms across northern Oregon and southern Washington brought devastating flooding to the Walla Walla Valley, destroying homes and property; washing away roads, bridges and cars; and closing highways. Members of the Walla Walla Washington Stake (similar to a diocese) have mobilized to provide flood relief service in their communities.


Walla Walla Washington Stake President John Rowley and Latter-day Saint Billy Nerenberg were at the meetinghouse on the evening of February 6, 2020, when a trickle of storm-water turned quickly into a torrent of destruction from multiple rivers in the valley. “We needed to get to work immediately,” said Nerenberg, who was designated to lead the stake’s coordinated relief effort.

That night, President Rowley and Nerenberg divided the stake into four areas and assigned area coordinators to identify needs, assemble willing volunteers, gather heavy machinery, and organize work groups. In a few days, nearly 250 adult and youth volunteers were ready to assist with designated projects on the three upcoming Saturdays.

The Walla Walla Washington Stake covers affected communities in Washington and Oregon. “Our area is familiar with flooding,” said Nerenberg. “We knew the flooding was coming, but we didn't expect it to be this bad.”

Volunteers came from neighboring stakes and included ranchers, farmers and contractors with bulldozers, trailers, excavators and dump trucks. Full-time missionaries have assisted with mucking out homes and buildings and staffing a call center set up through the county. Youth picked up shovels early in the morning and energetically worked all day long. Others have donated funds for equipment fuel at a cost of $1,000 per day.

Latter-day Saints joined members of the Waitsburg Christian Church and Catalyst Church of Dayton to clean up and provide food, supplies and donations for community members in need.

“There's nothing like rolling up your sleeves and going to work together to make these community relationships real,” said Shawn Brown, area coordinator from the stake for Dayton and Waitsburg, Washington. Brown, a newly baptized member of the Church last December, had offered his service to the stake a year prior, should the need arise.

President Rowley commented that there have also been acts of service of which he is not aware. “So many people have been generous with their time and resources,” he said. “There has been a great willingness to come and help.”

Nerenberg said more cleanup projects are scheduled, and he estimates 50 volunteers will help The Refuge Church of Walla Walla on February 29, after 10 feet of flooding damaged their worship building.

As water recedes and mud dries, more cleanup is needed. “We will continue to serve," said Nerenberg.

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