Late last spring, members and friends of the Church lent a helping hand to aid victims of the flooding along the Richelieu River in Quebec, the first ever disaster relief Mormon Helping Hands project in eastern Canada.
Only a year ago, the Richelieu flood of 2011 was considered the worst overland flooding in southern Quebec in over 140 years and the slowest natural disaster lasting over two months. This flooding, which started from as far away as Vermont and New York states, continued from mid-April to mid-June with record daily rainfalls of more than 230 cm (90 inches) that fell in the region, resulting in millions of dollars of damage to more than 2650 homes and 330 cottages.
President Pierre-Paul Morin of the Longueuil Quebec stake had initially asked the fourteen congregations under his direction to commit to helping with the clean up of the flooded homes. Although they were hoping for 150 volunteers, when news of the project spread throughout eastern Canada, close to 550 members from congregations in Quebec, Ontario and the Atlantic provinces offered to participate. Several volunteers travelled from as far away as Toronto, a six-hour drive.
Laurent M. Leclerc, Director of Public Affairs for the Longueuil Quebec stake and Omer Pirlet, a member of the stake high council, coordinated the Helping Hands efforts in partnership with local authorities to assist with the clean up over two weekends in June.
The Premier of Quebec, Jean Charest, met with President Morin to inspect the cleaning and hygiene kits donated by the Church to local residents. Stake leaders had an opportunity to teach municipal and provincial authorities about the Church’s disaster relief program.
In Venise-en-Quebec, a bishop’s storehouse truck delivered the kits to the area in time for distribution by the volunteers. One resident was overwhelmed when she realized that the help was not only material, but also human as well. She said, “Oh, you are not only providing the products, but the labour force that comes with it!” and she began to cry. A few days after the project, local residents were still talking about “the angels who came Saturday.” Brother Leclerc responded, “They were talking of the members as angels. When we understand what it really means to be an angel, they could not describe us better than that. Angels are servants of God. When we serve our neighbour, we are only serving God.”