Glen Grayson learned the hard way how quickly things can change in the blink of an eye, or in the time it takes a levee to break.
The New Orleans native, who now lives in Conyers, said "I’ve seen the very best in people and I’ve seen the very worst. I’ve seen people fight, brothers and sisters kill one another over a bag of ice," he said.
During the weeks after the hurricane, there was some government help, "but the response is so slow and so small," he said.
"You don’t realize how much you need, how much you don’t have – water, food, cash… You lose electricity, you lose ATMs."
He now keeps at least year’s worth of food supplies and other supplies on hand. And to do that, he’s begun turning to a warehouse and cannery run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons.
Although he is not Mormon himself, Grayson said he buys his bulk drygoods from the LDS warehouse in Tucker because of the cheap prices and commercial grade equipment for canning and storing food, along with the volunteer camradery.
In operation for over two decades, the disaster relief supply center, which helps supply the entire southeast region, including Rockdale and surrounding metro area, is located in Tucker. The supply center houses a large warehouse with a wide variety of canned good and other disaster-ready supplies, such as generators and tents.
Under guidance from the LDS Church, the warehouse is a professionally-managed operation, with a large portion of their stock coming from LDS-run farms around the country. The Bishop Storehouse is run primary with Church volunteers and is stocked through members of the Church and is open to anyone to come purchase supplies.
"We are trying to teach self-reliance," said Randy Reynolds, Welfare Services Committee chairman and Emergency Preparedness Specialist for the Rockdale ward of the LDS Church and head of the Rockdale Libertarian party. "We believe in having food as a savings account. We recommend a two-year supply of food, however everyone should have at least a three-month supply."
Reynolds pointed out that about 20 to 30 percent of the customers are non-Mormons.
Jim Barry, who is also not a member of the church but knows Reynolds through the Libertarian party, said he keeps food supplies as a form of insurance.
"I had a period, back in 2003, when I was out of work. It was six months before somebody put a paycheck in my hand," he said. He was 30 days away from having to move out of his house and live in a tent on the land. Luckily, he was able to get a job and land back on his feet, but the experience made him realize how vulnerable anyone can become.
"It’s not fancy stuff, but this is an insurance policy in the cabinet," he said.
Not only does the supply warehouse provide disaster preparedness supplies to the local communities, it also helps organize large-scale national and international disaster relief operations. The LDS Church was recognized by the governor of Louisiana for their assistance after hurricane Katrina. After the disastrous earthquake in Haiti, around 400 volunteers were on-hand three days later at the supply warehouse loading semi-trucks with supplies ready for shipment to Haiti.
"We try to provide 72 hour relief for the lower 48 states," Reynolds said. "If something were to happen in Rockdale, [LDS] could field a few thousand volunteers in very short order."
In addition to the warehouse, there is also a Bishop Storehouse, a small grocery operation run by and supplied through donations from the LDS Church. The cannery located at the warehouse provides visitors an opportunity to learn how to can food for long-term storage. The cannery deals strictly with dry-pack canning of food, including grains and beans. Canning participants may bring their own dry-pack foods to local ward canning sessions, or purchase such items to can at the Bishop Storehouse.
There are an array of supply warehouses run by the LDS Church across the United States, with the warehouses providing supplies to Bishop Warehouses in the individual regional areas. The Tucker warehouses serves about a dozen Bishop Storehouses in the southeastern United States.
For more information about the disaster supply center, the canning operation and the Bishop Storehouse, contact 770-908-5782.
Reynolds regularly takes groups up to the cannery and storehouse, and is also planning to start a Meetup group for Rockdale families interested in becoming self-reliant. To find out more information, call 770-760-1776.