This week a group of 21 young men and women, who had completed their missions in the Tallahassee region for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were back in their homes more than 2,000 miles away. Learning of the devastation from Hurricane Michael, their call to serve again was no question. They piled into four vehicles in Provo, Utah, and traveled more than 30 hours to their former service area. Their goal was to help the devastated victims in Panama City, arriving in time to help in the Oct. 20-21 weekend relief effort.

Young men and women, members of the church, volunteer to serve as missionaries around the world. Men serve for two years and women for 18 months in a number of different congregations within a region. In addition to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, missionaries engaged with families in the community developing close relationships through service projects. There are currently 148 young men and women missionaries in the Florida Tallahassee Mission.

“As missionaries, we became friends while working in this area and have kept in touch since getting back home,” said Vanessa Wall, from Farmington, Utah.

Joey Hollinger, from Lehigh, Utah, explained, “When God sort of laid it all out for me so I could go, I just had to.”

“When we heard about this disaster, we knew we needed to come back to our second ‘home’ and help out the people we came to love here,” said Olivia Fast, from Palm Dale, California.

“When you love people, there is no distance or anything you won’t do for them,” said former missionary Trevor Burningham from Layton, Utah.

All weekend they worked at homes in the Panama City area cutting up fallen trees and moving the debris to the street for community pick up. More than 3,000 church member volunteers from six states converged to serve the storm victims in the disaster area from Marianna to Mexico Beach over the past two weekends.

A hotline, 1-800-451-1954, has been established for people who need some volunteer help with cleanup. It will be open from now until Nov. 2. As they are able, reputable and vetted relief agencies may assist families with cutting fallen trees, removal of wet drywall, insulation, flooring, furniture, appliances, adding tarps to cover damaged roofs, etc. All services are free, but service is not guaranteed due to the overwhelming need. There were 4,000 requests received the first week following the storm. Once work orders are received, they are placed on a website where volunteer organizations can review and select work that they can perform.

For individuals who would like to volunteer, go to www.JustServe.org. Look for the header “Help with current relief efforts” and click on the Hurricane Michael button.