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Volunteers Help Clear Debris Caused by Recent Storm in Iowa and Illinois

Latter-day Saints, youth group and community members help clear tree debris in across Nauvoo and Keokuk after dangerous wind storm

Helping Hands volunteers help clear tree debris from neighborhoods in Keokuk, Illinois, on July 8, 2023. Photo courtesy of Susan Sims, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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By Ryker Eggenberger, Church News

On Tuesday, July 4, and Saturday, July 8, volunteers comprised of Latter-day Saints, youth groups and community members helped clear tree debris that blew across Nauvoo, Illinois, and Keokuk, Iowa, during a dangerous wind storm on Thursday, June 29.

The wind storm, which was classified as a derecho by the National Weather Service, forced missionaries and visitors to take shelter in the basements of historic buildings in Nauvoo as wind speeds reached up to 100 mph, while Keokuk experienced wind speeds of up to 120 mph.

Around 220 volunteers helped clear tree debris from the Nauvoo historical sites on Tuesday, July 4. Among the volunteers were local Church and community members, including those from other Christian denominations, and a Latter-day Saint youth group from the San Antonio Texas Stake that was staying in Camp Nauvoo at the time.

Helping Hands volunteers clear tree debris from a neighborhood in Keokuk, Illinois, on July 8, 2023. Photo courtesy of Susan Sims, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

The youth group, which was comprised of approximately 150 youth and 50 leaders, “really helped a lot” with the cleanup according to Miles Gardner, the Nauvoo Illinois Stake communications director.

“It was a good thing,” Gardner said. “We have a lot of senior missionaries [at the historic sites]. They did a lot of the cleanup in that area, and we provided some assistance for that.”

Nauvoo is one of the communities where early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled and built a temple, along with other key events in the Church’s history, before ultimately heading west to Utah. The Church has restored or rebuilt more than 20 historic buildings there. Missionaries, including senior missionaries, sister missionaries and performing missionaries, serve at the site.

The group of volunteers expanded their service outside of the historic sites, too, and helped remove debris from other sites throughout Nauvoo.

“So many of the trees had fallen on residential lots and commercial lots throughout the city of Nauvoo. It just needed more attention,” Gardner said.

High wind speeds uprooted and destroyed trees all across historic Nauvoo, Illinois, on June 29, 2023. Photo courtesy of Doug Mills, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Several of the volunteers brought trailers, tractors and chainsaws to be able to help cut and remove tree debris and relocate it to a safer spot for disposal. The group donned yellow Helping Hand shirts as they served for around 760 working hours in the morning and afternoon of July 4.

Across the Mississippi River in Keokuk on Saturday, July 8, a total of 64 volunteers offered a combined total of 250 hours of service according to the Daily Gate City.

Some of the volunteers traveled from as far as three hours away to help clear debris from residents’ homes, and they coordinated their efforts with the Keokuk Department of Public Works. One Church member from Des Moines who owns a concrete construction business brought equipment and his crew to help with the service.

Both days of service were organized by local stake and community leaders with help from Susan Sims, communication director for the Iowa region and western Illinois.

“It was fun — I think everybody enjoyed it,” said Gardner. “It was near 90 degrees and hard work. Everyone enjoyed it.”

Fallen trees in front of a historic building in the Nauvoo, Illinois, historic sites on June 29, 2023. Photo courtesy of Craig Dalton, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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