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Scientology got plenty of photo ops out of hurricanes in Texas and Florida. But did it help?

Rod Keller brings us up to date on Scientology’s response to various natural disasters around the world this past month…

The Scientology Volunteer Minister program claims to be “one of the largest independent relief organizations in the world.” They are not that. They are poorly organized and depend on donations to get through each day of a relief mission. They depend on untrained volunteers to re-invent relief procedures for each emergency. The purpose is to show that Scientology is a real religion, but the help that reaches people in emergency conditions is fairly minimal.

When you donate to the American Red Cross or a similar organization for hurricane or earthquake relief, your money will probably be spent for the next emergency and not the current one. Large relief organizations pre-position supplies. The Red Cross has manufactured large supplies of blankets and clothing ahead of an emergency, and donations serve mainly to replenish their reserves. This is good planning and prevents spending time to sort out, transport and store donated items. They don’t want you to bring them a case of bottled water. They want you to donate money and they can buy water in a more efficient way. The Volunteer Ministers, or VMs work differently. They spent the first few days of the Hurricane Harvey crisis in Houston, Texas assembling cleaning products into kits for distribution.


[Austin org became a sorting warehouse]

Marcela Pumphrey and I are here at the Org coordinating on the VM lines and what is needed and wanted. One thing we know for sure we need tons of are below. We need as many as we can get. Please use your comm lines and help get donations of these items:
WIPES – that can be used anywhere on the body
KLEENEX – small individual packs
SOAP – Bar Soap or Small Body Wash
HAND SANITIZER – Small, individual size bottles
DEODORANT – Size to fit Gallon Zip Lock Bag
SHAMPOO & CONDITIONER – Small Sizes for Zip Lock Bag
There’s no limit on the quantity needed. Please use any and all comm lines and get donations. Have delivered to Org. You can coordinate with me directly if you have questions. My cell is 702-xxx-xxxx.

[Sanitary kit assembly line at Austin org]


[VMs shop for supplies at Walmart]

The Austin Scientology org became a warehouse of donated items, and an assembly line to produce sanitary kits. At one point early in the effort they reported 800 kits were complete. No doubt somebody in the hurricane area who had fled their home, or whose home was damaged or destroyed would appreciate a nice sanitary package. But buying soap at Walmart and Amazon is not how a world class relief organization operates.

I want to thank everyone for responding to buying goods on Amazon to send to Austin Texas. We have had well over 50 people respond to my posts having ordered stuff from Amazon. You are all amazing. There are hundreds of thousands of people that need help, any amount of supplies help. You all are amazing. Thank you all.

Here is the wish list put together by Samantha Nierop, who is being the Supplies I/C.

Send to Church of Scientology of Texas
2200 Guadalupe Str
Austin Texas 78705

[Grant and Elena Cardone fly supplies to Houston]

Scientology “whale” Grant Cardone provided the most wasteful way to deliver supplies to Houston – by private jet. Thousands of dollars were spent on fuel to deliver supplies that cost a fraction of that. These are useful items in the aftermath of a hurricane, but the money could have been better spent. Their inventory is as follows:

761 Cardone shirts
8244 Diapers
1356 Adult incontinence items
320 Toothpaste tubes

1872 Toothbrushes
13500 Baby wipes
390 Razors
300 rolls of Toilet paper
432 Poise pads
Grand total. – 27,145 items

By September 2nd the VMs were ready to move in to help clean the affected area. Vans were sent to LaGrange and Rockport, Texas with about 10 volunteers each. They were asked to bring their own equipment.

Austin VM HQ- Yesterday, the City of LaGrange put out a call for volunteers to assist in flood clean-up. LaGrange, less than an hour and a half from Austin experienced significant flooding, damaging businesses and damaging or destroying roughly 500 homes after the community received over 20 inches of rain during Hurricane Harvey.

Meet at the Org on Saturday, September 2, at 7:00am.
You will be briefed, outfitted, and then we will travel as a group to LaGrange and go to work.
Muster in LaGrange: Mandatory morning muster is held in LaGrange each day at 9:00am. City officials need and want people to show up on time, get the safety briefing, get a wrist band, accept their work assignments and then move on to their various work locations.

We will try to provide as much as possible but you may want to bring your own basic equipment:
Rubber Boots or sturdy shoes
Dust Mask
Utility knife (razor knife for cutting sheetrock)
Would not hurt to bring a shovel or a broom.

This is much much needed. Please make it go right to meet us at the Org parking lot, crack of dawn (7:00am). Let’s do this! Contact Debbie Convery at:512-xxx-xxxx- Let her know you are coming! Be sure we have your name and cell phone number today if you are coming tomorrow.
Same schedule Sunday.

But by then the VMs were literally out of gas. Scientology VMs respond in the first few days of an emergency, but soon lose interest as the crisis is handled by local officials and large relief organizations. Their focus was about to shift to another hurricane in Florida.

Hey guys! We tried to get gas today and the station was out. I also just read another post about someone not able to find gas. This madness needs to stop. This is what I’m sharing on my own FB page:

Austin friends! STOP THE GAS HOARDING!

I am working with my church to deploy hundreds to Houston, Rockport and other affected areas as are many other organizations. Please spread the word to stop the gas hoarding. The volunteers are the ones who really NEED the gas!

If you must, take the bus, the train or walk. These heroes MUST be deployed to the areas that need them most and must not be stopped by a run on the gas here. Please spread the word. Thank you!

[Scientologists replace the sign outside the Lucky Anchor bar in downtown Clearwater]

Hurricane Irma hit the Tampa, Florida area on September 10 and 11. As the Tampa Bay Times reported, VMs boarded up downtown businesses, returned to remove the boards, and repaired several storefronts that were damaged. It seems certain that the Sea Org members of Flag Land Base were issued yellow shirts and “became” volunteer ministers. They spent hours clearing debris, distributed ice, water and food.


[VMs remove debris at the Post Office on Cleveland St.]

[VMs spread throughout the Clearwater area to remove fallen branches and trees.]

[Los Topos from Mexico City clear debris at Peace Memorial Church in Clearwater]

As quickly as they came, the VMs vanished from Clearwater. Sea Org members have other responsibilities, and the focus was about to change to Mexico City. Los Topos, or “The Moles” had come to the Clearwater to help out. They are Volunteer Ministers and self-funded rescue workers that specialize in collapsed buildings in the wake of an earthquake. As trained medical personnel their skills were valuable in Florida, but it was the worst possible time for Los Topos to be abroad. On September 19 Mexico was hit with a magnitude 7.1 earthquake.


[Los Topos return to the Mexico City Ideal Org]

[Mexico City Ideal Org sorting supplies]

[VM tent in Mexico City]

Scientology operates three orgs in Mexico City, the Ideal Org, Polanco (also known as OCD), and Organizacion de Desarollo y Dianetica (known as ODD). All three are operating VM tents and the volunteers appear to all be publics in these orgs. They are doing what everybody in the city is doing – organizing supplies that are on hand and distributing them to those in need. Of the three relief efforts this month it is the most authentic and provides the most help to people affected.


Having responded in Houston, Clearwater and Mexico City, Scientology’s Volunteer Ministers are spent. They don’t maintain a reserve of money or supplies. With the exception of Los Topos they rely on untrained volunteers. If they come from outside the area, they arrive and leave fairly quickly. Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 19th, taking out all electricity and leaving many dead and injured before heading to the islands of Turks and Caicos. There is no enthusiasm for a large contingent of VMs to be sent to Puerto Rico, or Turks and Caicos although a few may arrive. A fundraiser for one VM to go to Puerto Rico has raised but $145 out of the $1,000 goal. It’s difficult to raise money for a fourth disaster when public Scientologists have been asked repeatedly in August and September to donate money and supplies. Only organizations that plan in advance, with reserves of money and supplies can cope with so many humanitarian crises in a row, and that does not describe the VMs.

And just before we went to press, there was also this: These VMs are heading to the badly damaged island of St. Maartens, without bulk supplies to deliver or significant tools or work gear.


— Rod Keller


Scientology disconnection, a reminder

Bernie Headley has not seen his daughter Stephanie in 4,883 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his grandson Leo in 29 days.
Clarissa Adams has not seen her parents Walter and Irmin Huber in 1,092 days.
Carol Nyburg has not seen her daughter Nancy in 1,866 days.
Jamie Sorrentini Lugli has not seen her father Irving in 2,640 days.
Quailynn McDaniel has not seen her brother Sean in 1,986 days.
Claudio and Renata Lugli have not seen their son Flavio in 2,480 days.
Sara Goldberg has not seen her daughter Ashley in 1,520 days.
Lori Hodgson has not seen her son Jeremy and daughter Jessica in 1,232 days.
Marie Bilheimer has not seen her mother June in 758 days.
Joe Reaiche has not seen his daughter Alanna Masterson in 4,847 days
Derek Bloch has not seen his father Darren in 1,987 days.
Cindy Plahuta has not seen her daughter Kara in 2,307 days.
Claire Headley has not seen her mother Gen in 2,282 days.
Ramana Dienes-Browning has not seen her mother Jancis in 638 days.
Mike Rinder has not seen his son Benjamin and daughter Taryn in 4,940 days.
Brian Sheen has not seen his daughter Spring in 1,047 days.
Skip Young has not seen his daughters Megan and Alexis for 1,449 days.
Mary Kahn has not seen her son Sammy in 1,322 days.
Lois Reisdorf has not seen her son Craig in 903 days.
Phil and Willie Jones have not seen their son Mike and daughter Emily in 1,408 days.
Mary Jane Sterne has not seen her daughter Samantha in 1,652 days.
Kate Bornstein has not seen her daughter Jessica in 12,761 days.


3D-UnbreakablePosted by Tony Ortega on September 24, 2017 at 07:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Our book, The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology tried to destroy Paulette Cooper, is on sale at Amazon in paperback, Kindle, and audiobook versions. We’ve posted photographs of Paulette and scenes from her life at a separate location. Reader Sookie put together a complete index. More information can also be found at the book’s dedicated page.

The Best of the Underground Bunker, 1995-2016 Just starting out here? We’ve picked out the most important stories we’ve covered here at the Undergound Bunker (2012-2016), The Village Voice (2008-2012), New Times Los Angeles (1999-2002) and the Phoenix New Times (1995-1999)

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of L.A. attorney and former church member Vance Woodward
UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists
GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice
SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

Other links: Shelly Miscavige, ten years gone | The Lisa McPherson story told in real time | The Cathriona White stories | The Leah Remini ‘Knowledge Reports’ | Hear audio of a Scientology excommunication | Scientology’s little day care of horrors | Whatever happened to Steve Fishman? | Felony charges for Scientology’s drug rehab scam | Why Scientology digs bomb-proof vaults in the desert | PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer | The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill | Scientology boasts about assistance from Google | The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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