Service is one of the core values for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Throughout the world, hundreds of thousands are joining with their neighbors, service groups and organizations to meet the demands of growing communities. Two significant Mormon Helping Hands events recently took place in the northwest region of the United States.
Washington, Oregon and Northern Idaho
Across the northwest states of Washington, Oregon and northern Idaho, more than 14,000 volunteers participated in a broad scope of community service on 11 September 2010.
“From cleaning parks, planting trees and repairing homes to feeding the homeless and helping the Red Cross, it is wonderful thing to be involved in serving our communities and each other,” said Elder R. Bruce Merrell, of the Church’s Quorum of the Seventy. “In many cases we are partnered with other religious or community organizations.”
Participants in the Mormon Helping Hands project joined with other churches, school districts, community agencies and neighborhood organizations.
“The Emergency Feeding Program people were ecstatic,” said Dan Conlin, Day of Service NWcochair, after a large load of food was dropped off in King County, Washington. “They were blown away by the amount of food we collected for them in one day. They estimate they have at least two months supply of food for the people they serve.”
“When President Bruce Taggart of the Renton Washington Stake met with the mayor and me to offer the services of 800 volunteers, we were both overwhelmed and overjoyed,” said Jay Covington, chief administrative officer for the city of Renton. “In these difficult economic times, to have that offer of assistance is unprecedented and so appreciated.”
The 157 projects included large scale food drives; blood drives; wetlands restorations; extensive parks and trails work; school and cemetery clean-ups; sprucing up elderly housing and community centers; appreciation acknowledgement of police, fire and medical service personnel; sewing projects; and letter writing campaigns for overseas USA military personnel.
Over 35,000 hours of service were given as volunteers — individuals and families, from toddlers to grandparents — contributed time, energy and resources to improve their local communities.
“This kind of joint effort puts a shine on our community that is more than visual. When people serve others like this, we are all better for it,” said Covington.
The Mormon Helping Hands program was officially established in 1998 by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and since then hundreds of thousands of volunteers have donated millions of hours of service to their communities in many parts of the world.
Central and Southern Idaho
In the Idaho area, more than 10,000 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers donned the recognizable yellow T-shirts to clear and clean, paint and beautify public areas in 20 counties from Idaho Falls to Boise. In most cases, projects were suggested by county, city, school district or other community leaders to help improve their communities.
Sister Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in the Primary general presidency of the Church, and other auxiliary board members took a break from leadership training to volunteer their time in service projects throughout the Twin Falls area.
Sister Esplin joined over 400 volunteers to reseed about 450 acres of a burned city park area located in the Snake River Canyon. Area businessmen, service groups and conservation organizations raised and contributed $60,000 to provide the 8,000 pounds of mixed native vegetation seed used to reseed. Upon completion of the restoration project, Twin Falls City Park and Recreation director Dennis Boyer was quoted as saying, “With your help, we’re going to make this park even better than it was when we got it. … This is Twin Falls at its best.”
In Nampa, a large congregation took the task of cleaning eight miles of hiking trails along the Snake River from Halverson Lake to Map Rock Road in the Celebration Park area.
Speaking about the Idaho Helping Hands projects, Elder J. Craig Rowe of the Seventy said, “We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to partner with community leaders across southern Idaho in a variety of projects. These opportunities bring local communities together.”