On April 16, hearing that a 7.8-magnitude earthquake had hit near Quito, Ecuador, brought back vivid memories for Ken Patricio Smith—and spurred him to action.
Having served an LDS mission in Chile nearly 40 years ago, Brother Smith says, “I personally witnessed the devastation caused by earthquakes in Chile and El Salvador. Imagine losing loved ones or everything you own in a matter of seconds.”
A Mesa attorney and former Spanish branch president, Brother Smith is a member of the Citrus Heights Stake and attends both the Hermosa Groves and Valencia (Spanish) wards.
He has served as the Honorary Consul of Chile since 2012. As such, he provides services to more than 2,000 Chileans who live in the Phoenix area, helping them with passports, to register births and deaths and to prepare other legal documents.
His role also has afforded him the opportunity to associate with other leaders in the Hispanic community, including Dr. Patricio Herrera Betancourt, the Consul General of Ecuador in Phoenix.
Based on initial reports after the earthquake, Brother Smith knew the damage was massive.
“The death toll was approaching 600. Thousands of people were injured and in need of medical attention. Thousands more were in need of food, water, clothing and shelter,” he says.
When Brother Smith learned his friend Dr. Herrara was mounting efforts to collect food, clothing and other necessities, he helped him set up a GoFundMe account to raise money to purchase needed items. (See https://www.gofundme.com/2645rwpk.)
Still, Brother Smith felt more needed to be done—and it needed to be done faster.
He called the Church’s Welfare Services office. Speaking to the director, Steve Peterson, Brother Smith explained that, while he was a member of the Church, he was calling as Honorary Consul of Chile to request aid food and tents for the victims of the earthquake.
“Brother Peterson said he would see what could be done,” explains Brother Smith. “The very next day, Don Johnson from Welfare Services called to inform me they had a truck on the road from Salt Lake to Mesa and that the truck was loaded with rice and beans and tents.”
The truck held 22 pallets of supplies, enough to fill a 53’-long semi-trailer. It weighed 21 tons, and included 1600 large bags—400 each of pinto beans, black beans, white beans and rice. Also included were 100 large tents that sleep up to six adults.
According to the arrangements that had been made, when the truck arrived at the Bishops’ Storehouse in Mesa, the supplies were unloaded, then loaded on another truck contracted by Consul Herrera and the Government of Ecuador to deliver the supplies to Los Angeles, where they were put on a ship to Ecuador.
As Brother Smith and Dr. Herrara watched from the storehouse dock, “We marveled about the miracle we had just experienced,” says Brother Smith. “We both could feel our Heavenly Father’s love and concern for His sons and daughters in Ecuador.”
Dr. Herrara agrees, saying, “I would like to express my most profound gratitude for the generosity and the gesture of goodwill brought to pass by my friend, Patricio Smith and for the members of the LDS Church, for their contributions and sacrifices to help the Ecuadorian people. Please be assured that the food and tents will be delivered to the people that are in real need.”