Additional Resource

Latter-day Saints Help Clean-up and Repair after Tropical Storm Imelda

Homes, businesses and streets in Southeast Texas were inundated with flooding after Tropical Storm Imelda stalled near the coast in mid-September. Five deaths were reported, and many residents have lost everything including their homes and cars.

Less than a week after the storm hit, Helping Hands volunteers, who are mostly members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, quickly organized to clean up and repair. They hauled out damaged items and debris from homes, while others were inside fixing walls, floors, siding and tending to other damages. Former Houston Temple president Marshall Hayes quietly spent his 74th birthday on Sunday, September 22, serving storm victims. “I’m just grateful to be able to serve these wonderful people,” he said.


Paul Worley, bishop of the Beaumont 6th Ward (congregation), said several widows needed help. “Many of the homes that were flooded were not flooded during [Hurricane] Harvey in 2017. So, while this storm was not as big as Harvey, the impact for many people was bigger than Harvey.”

Some areas of Jefferson County, of which Beaumont is the county seat, reportedly received over 40-inches of rain, and many roads were covered with flood water for several days.

The Beaumont Stake is no stranger to natural disasters. “If we are not ground zero, we are often just to the left or the right of these storms,” said stake president Mark Ratcliff. In the past decade and a half Southeast Texas has been heavily impacted by Hurricanes Rita, Ike, Harvey and now Tropical Storm Imelda. When hurricanes have struck other parts of the Gulf Coast, Latter-day Saints from the Beaumont and Orange, Texas, stakes have been among the first volunteers to help their neighbors in need.

Helping Hands volunteers were called to the home of Tootie and Marion Hoffpauir in Winnie, Texas. In the 53 years the Hoffpauirs have lived there, this was the first time their entire home had flooded. Three generations were living in the home at the time, including an adult daughter with special needs. “When Marion opened the door and saw us standing there, she burst into tears of gratitude,” said crew chief Eric Ratcliff. “She kept telling us, ‘Thank you, thank you. We couldn’t have done this without you. God bless y’ll for coming.’”

The Chambers Branch (small congregation) in Winnie, Texas, was one of the hardest hit areas. Elisa Zepeda, a Latter-day Saint who lives in Winnie, said her family lost three cars, as well as their home to the flooding.

Some volunteers knew firsthand what the flood victims were going through. “Our home flooded with nearly four feet of water during Hurricane Harvey,” said Jim Cole, who had traveled from Spring, Texas, with family and fellow Latter-day Saints to help with the cleanup in Vidor, Texas. “From their own experiences, my children were able to share with the families we served that things would be okay.” Fellow congregation member Will Willis, whose home was also flooded during Hurricane Harvey, reflected, “We’re grateful for the opportunity we have to put on these same yellow vests and help our brothers and sisters in need. My hope is that through their trials, these dear families might be able to witness the Lord’s influence and power in their lives.”

“Approximately 150 to 170 Helping Hands volunteers from the Beaumont area cleaned about 36 homes this past weekend, with dozens of additional crews from the Houston area serving in other Texas locations,” said President Ratcliff. “The next couple of weekends will be the big opportunities for service.”

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