I appreciated this article about the Coalinga earthquake in California, because of the description of the way the church members worked together afterward. This is a great example of what our stake could do after a disaster here.
Shari Vanlandingham, 14, and a convert of eight months, said she feels that being a member of the Church makes a big difference during a time of calamity. “I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have all this help. After the quake they had a meeting at the Church and asked what everybody needed. Whatever you needed, they would help you get. Everybody was helping everybody.”
Janel Woolsey, 14, agreed. “The Church made a lot of difference. The evening of the quake the church was opened for anybody who needed food or a place to sleep. People just came by to see if they could help.”
The meetinghouse quickly became a center for coordinating relief efforts. Several families whose homes were unsafe to live in set up tents and trailers in the parking lot. The bulletin board in the foyer was divided into headings—Carpentry, Plumbing, Brickwork, etc.—with listings of those who needed help in each area. Local radio stations announced that anyone who needed help cleaning up could contact the LDS church.
The Church organization was able to respond quickly to individual needs largely because of preparations that had been made before the earthquake. Even before the Tuesday planning meeting in Hanford, ward leaders had compiled a list of supplies that ward members could provide in the event of a disaster. They knew who had campers, tents, cooking equipment, and first-aid supplies. They knew what members were trained in medical, plumbing, and construction skills. And members of the ward welfare committee had been assigned specific responsibilities in the event of a disaster—communications, child care, food preparation, sanitation, emotional problems, etc.
While most members had plenty of food, cooking it with the power off was a problem. And since everyone was so busy trying to clean up their homes, the evening meals provided by different wards in the stake were extremely welcome. For two weeks after the quake, meals were prepared by the Relief Society sisters in the stake and transported over long distances to Coalinga.