Going Forth: City of Storms - Hurricane Clean-up
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Going Forth: City of Storms

An alum spends a month mucking and chainsawing in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Paul Solouki’s love of service powers him through heat and mess while he cleans up after New Orleans’s latest hurricane. Photo courtesy Paul Solouki.

You might call it a hobby, but seeing the joy in Paul R. Solouki’s (BA ’07) face as he hefts his chain saw, passion might be a better word for the way the alum approaches service in his storm-tossed city of New Orleans. “Most of us who are born and bred in Louisiana love it here, and we are not afraid of hurricanes,” he says. What is fearsome, however, is the aftermath.

Hurricane Ida struck southern Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2021, as a Category 4 storm. Citizens were informed they’d be a month without electricity, flushing toilets, or shower water due to bacteria in the water. The storm shut down Solouki’s law office for nearly a month. “My coworker and I decided we could sit home and sweat, or we could sweat outside and help somebody,” he says.

Solouki, who was serving as bishop in the Jefferson Ward at the time, began contacting members to address their most pressing problems. He says, “We prioritized helping members with one of three things: mucking out houses, tarping roofs, and [removing] debris and trees.” Mucking involves removing damage from houses, especially wet drywall, where black mold can grow.

“[Service] heals you from the inside out.”

—Paul Solouki

The stake center had easy access to hurricane-relief supplies from previous storms. Once Helping Hands volunteers from Georgia and Texas arrived the following weekend, Solouki joined their teams. The Helping Hands crew, some from as many as eight hours away, traveled to New Orleans for five consecutive weekends to help strangers remove debris and make homes safe.

For 32 days Solouki and others provided relief from sunup to sundown. “Now, we’ve had to return to work, but we still haven’t stopped,” he says. Many who were beneficiaries of their work joined in to help others. “We’ve gotten no less than 10 people who are not members of our faith to come out and give whole Saturdays to work with us because they saw the change that came from doing this work,” he notes.

“I really saw what it means in Mosiah 2:17: ‘When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,’” says Solouki. “I saw the glory of God as we helped people that were downtrodden and who had lost hope. When you serve, it changes everything. It heals you from the inside out.”

SERVICE STORIES: In Going Forth Y Magazine shares stories of alumni making the world a better place by serving in their communities, congregations, and homes. Let us know when you see an alum going about doing good. Send your nominations (and any photos) to alumninews@byu.edu.