“Beneficiaries of Service,” Ensign, Aug. 1993, 50–51
Approximately 125 members of the Flagstaff Arizona Stake joined in giving three hours of intensive community service one Saturday morning in October 1991.
Flagstaff community recreation director Vince Knaggy observed parents and children on their knees together scraping paint off the floor to prepare the public ice skating rink for its grand reopening as a combined roller rink for summers and ice rink for winters. He said the service would save the city considerable expense. “We appreciate the help that would have otherwise had to come from our personnel.” Scraping the floor was part of an upgrading of the rink that included enclosing the previously open building, repainting, and generally making the facility more effective as a gathering place for the mountain community’s families in the summer as well as during the snowy months of the year. There are plans for teen activity nights on Saturdays, with dances, bands, and disk jockeys.
Meanwhile, across town, at the Center Against Domestic Violence, several members of the stake accomplished their own version of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. There were only two brushes, two rollers, and too little paint to cover the yellow walls in the two rooms they were to paint. Undaunted, DuWayne Wilson, wearing his fifty-year-old, paint-covered overalls, and Rich Kunde went to their homes and to the paint store to quickly get more paint, tape, tarps, and rubber gloves, returning in time for the eight participants from their stake to finish the painting and join the others at the stake center for lunch when all projects were complete.
Other projects included picking up trash along a section of roadway near a high school and a shopping area, clearing a park and picnic area of rocks, entertaining residents of a nursing home, and cleaning the grounds of the Catholic Social Services Food Bank. Participants also helped out by delivering flyers for the American Cancer Society and assisting another charitable organization.
In September 1991, the entire stake activities committee had met to organize projects. Stake cultural arts leaders Rebecca Fillerup and Susan Hales helped plan service projects that would get large numbers of stake members involved. They wanted the satisfaction of real service, not just a self-satisfying exercise in religious exuberance. And their plans met with success.
Their first step was to identify the community’s social service organizations. They then contacted each group, offering whatever service was needed, volunteering their time from nine o’clock to noon October 26.
“We were met with expressions of surprise and delight at our willingness to provide a service for them,” says Sister Fillerup. “Out of the sixteen organizations contacted, we identified ten activities for seven groups. We tried to make the activities flexible, not knowing ahead of time how many members of the stake would participate. We felt we had activities in which families, youth, singles, and older couples could all help.”
The committee also decided to collect nonperishable food items for the Northern Arizona Food Bank and to invite all participants in the service projects to a luncheon at the stake center when work was finished.
The second step, publicizing the events, involved sending a letter to each bishop at the end of September detailing the service projects and the food drive. Each ward activities chairman received an assignment. Members received fliers when they attended general conference broadcasts at the stake center. Also, the public affairs directors in the six Flagstaff wards, the two university wards, the Williams Ward, and the Grand Canyon Branch were given fliers for inclusion in printed sacrament meeting programs for the two weeks preceding the day of the service projects. One ward in the stake was assigned to purchase and prepare food for the lunch: hoagie sandwiches, potato salad, and cupcakes for a possible two hundred participants.
During the last week before the “Church in Action” event, information sheets were typed listing each activity, the organization being served, a work description, the ward activities person in charge of that particular activity, the location of the work, a map, and the name of the person to contact at the site. Copies were made for participants. Sign-up tables with signs describing each service, and the tables and chairs for the luncheon were set up the day before at the stake center.
Sister Fillerup reported: “On Saturday morning at nine sharp there were already members filling the parking lot. All of the projects were completed with time to spare.” Three hundred seventy-five pounds of food were collected for the Northern Arizona Food Bank.
Parents shared their feelings about the projects while eating lunch. Claudia McHood said, “After leaving the Los Arcos rest home, I was sure I’d done the right thing, especially when my thirteen-year-old son, Ryan, said, ‘Boy, Mom, that was so much fun!’”
Susan Fox said that picking up trash was a great project for her large family, because there was something for family members of every age to do.
Margaret Kitterman said: “My four-year-old worked by her own choice. I noticed that President Palmer spent the whole time on his hands and knees scrubbing. It was nice to be able to point out that our leaders don’t ask us to do things they don’t do.”
Stake president Thomas Lee Palmer recalled: “This was a great opportunity for our family and for the members of our stake to work elbow-to-elbow in service to our community. We needed no thanks or praise—we were the beneficiaries of the service. Those served were genuinely grateful for the number of volunteers of all ages who came to help. We need to do it more often, more spontaneously, for those of our neighbors in need. Our stake activities committee did an outstanding job of organization and supervision.”
Sister Hales agreed: “There is always a nervous feeling in organizing a project of this magnitude. So much depends on people’s willingness to extend themselves. Church members have been accused of not wanting to step outside the ’safe’ LDS circle. The wonderful response we saw to this activity is evidence that the accusation is unfounded.”—Marie Holt Tsutsui, Flagstaff, Arizona