News and Commentary

Utah As A Model State For Volunteerism

The state of Utah has been battling more wildfires than usual this year, resulting in the destruction of 85,000 acres and the evacuation of 6,000 people from 1,500 homes. Despite this, the citizens of Utah stepped up so much to volunteer and donate that they are being told to stop.

“Update from the Red Cross noting a few big problems: 1) Big waiting list…of people that want to HELP and provide shelter for others. 2) TOO MANY donations,” Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox tweeted last week. “Please stop for now. 3) 6,000 people evacuated and no one staying at the shelter. Well done Utah. Well done.”

In an interview with The Daily Wire, the governor of Utah, Gary Herbert, said that he is not surprised. “If you look at the statistics, Utah leads the nation with volunteerism,” he said. “It’s part of our culture.”

“Well, I can tell you it’s not surprising. In fact, as soon as the request went out, we knew we would be inundated with supplies,” he added.

Herbert said the culture began with the Mormon pioneers.

“When they looked into the Salt Lake Valley, all they saw was high desert and when they said, ‘This is the place,’ I’m sure people said, ‘Are you sure?’ It was a place where nobody wanted to stay,” he said. “The pioneers wanted to go on to Oregon, Washington, or California, but they came together with the mantra, ‘We’re going to make this desert blossom.’ They were going to work together and cooperate and collaborate and support each other or they were going to die.”

Herbert added that this was not the first disaster that the community stepped up for and that this happens nearly every time. After a windstorm caused destruction several years ago, Herbert claims “on Sunday churches got together and said: ‘Today is not a day for church-going, it’s a day for church service,’ and they went down and helped clean up debris.”

For this specific disaster, Herbert says the Red Cross doesn’t have much to do because so many people are offering to help. “Everyone is being taken into homes and churches,” he said. “People are advertising on Facebook: ‘We have rooms and flatbed trucks,’ or ‘We have drinks and food on the front porch.'”

Cox added that he “loves the Red Cross and they are amazing and we are so grateful for them,” but “this is probably the fifth time that we have been in a situation when the Red Cross came and they end up closing up shop early because there is no one to help because we take care of each other.”

Cox says there is a waitlist of people who are opening up their homes to help.

“We step up in the face of tragedy,” Cox added. “We truly love our neighbors. This is a message that is much needed in our country today.”

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