OREGON — Several members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have joined in volunteer efforts to help Oregon residents who have lost their homes in wildfires.
The 2020 fire season in Oregon has been one of the most destructive on record — burning more than one million acres and killing at least 10 people.
In Rogue Valley near Medford, Oregon, fast-moving fires had destroyed more than 2,350 homes by Sept. 8. The Church reports a loss of 65 homes within its membership, with no lives lost.
“We are grateful that the loss of life is not as bad as it could have been,” said Elder David L. Wright in a statement.
A meeting place was briefly used as a shelter for those who lost their homes, housing roughly a dozen families, the Church reported. Evacuees then moved to the Jackson County Fair and Expo in Central Point.
“It has been devastating and unifying at the same time. All but two families at our ward were under a mandatory evacuation,” said Alison Allen, a service leader of the Bear Creek congregation.
Missionaries from the Oregon Eugene mission arrived at the expo center to assist with the evacuees. The first night, the Church reported more than 2,000 people at the shelter.
We didn’t ask formally anywhere for [the missionaries]; they just came,” said Helen Funk, director of the center. “They truly made a difference.”
Several church members also invited displaced residents to stay in their homes. Others assisted the expo center in receiving donations.
Volunteers report they received cars, money and housing opportunities as donations from outside sources.
“It got to the point that we had to start turning people away for some of the donations,” said Elder Grayson Johnson, a missionary who volunteered at the expo center. “They didn’t know what to do with everything.”
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