Strengthening the Community
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“Strengthening the Community,” Ensign, Feb. 2003, 78–79

Strengthening the Community

Hong Kong Plays Three-on-Three Basketball

The Church-sponsored seventh annual Three-on-Three Basketball Tournament in Hong Kong drew 2,000 players, 375 teams, and Brigham Young University—Provo’s head basketball coach, Steve Cleveland. The event garnered tremendous support from the community; about 95 percent of the participants were not Latter-day Saints. Among the largest tournaments in all of Asia, this Church-sponsored event took place in the Hong Kong Kowloon East Stake Center, where Brother Cleveland spoke during the opening ceremonies about his 25 years of coaching experience. He encouraged players to instill in their personal lives the discipline, work ethic, and respect that bring success on the court. Invited by the Asia Area Presidency, Brother Cleveland also conducted a basketball clinic for boys and girls ages 10–18 and participated with his wife in two firesides.

Honolulu Saints Make a Difference

The national Make a Difference Day in 2002 mobilized members of the Honolulu Hawaii Stake to complete a four-month service project providing 500 hand-sewn fabric bags containing stuffed toys and soft blankets to the Children’s Justice Center of Oahu. These “love bags,” made with help from the Hawaii Chapter of American Mothers, Inc., will be given to children taken from their homes and placed in foster care. “We have some children carrying their belongings in a paper bag,” says Jasmine Mau-Mukai, programs director for the Children’s Justice Center. “There really is love in these ‘love bags.’”

The project began four months before Make a Difference Day. Members made the bags and blankets in their homes and with their wards. More than 140 people volunteered at a work session held in the Honolulu Tabernacle in July, and 120 people volunteered in August.

“We’ve filled our gym with sewing machines, and the work has been done by men, women, and children with and without sewing experience,” says stake president Waldemar Thiim. “Everyone is happy about possibly making a difference in the life of a child.”

Houston Stakes Receive Mayor’s Award

Recognizing nine years of volunteer work in Houston’s inner city, the mayor of Houston, Texas, presented a Mayor’s Proud Partner Award to local units of the Church at an annual luncheon honoring community organizations.

Beginning in the early 1990s, several stakes provided volunteers for the annual “Keep 5 Alive” project, created to improve inner-city public grounds. In 2002, 250 young people from a four-stake Laurel/priest conference cleaned and landscaped public grounds, while more than 75 volunteers from the Houston Texas East Stake painted houses. Another project included cleaning the city’s bayous.

Without the Church’s support, says Mike Easley, the leader of the project, “Keep 5 Alive” would not have happened in 2002. Commenting on members’ responses to such large-scale service projects, Brent Webber of the Katy Texas Stake says, “All participants came back saying it had been a wonderful experience. They came back with really good, positive feelings.”

Church Helps Bring Boats to Timor

The Church in Australia is aiding a local charity organization and villages in East Timor, a small island in Indonesia. Volunteers from Aussie Boats for East Timor (ABET) have constructed wooden fishing boats, each of which can provide food for about 100 villagers of East Timor. Church Welfare Services in Australia is donating money to help ship the boats to East Timor.

Australia/New Zealand Area President, Elder Kenneth Johnson of the Seventy, first heard a television report that ABET needed help transporting the fishing boats to Timor. In 2000 the Church donated money to refugees from troubled East Timor.

Elder Elwin Johnson is grateful that the Church’s contribution will build self-sufficiency beyond just providing boats. After arriving in East Timor, the shipping container the Church is helping to purchase will be used to form the first part of a factory in Hera, a town east of Dili, where ABET representatives will teach East Timor natives to make their own wooden boats.

If giving a man a fish can feed him for a day, teaching a village to build fishing boats can do much more, Elder Elwin Johnson suggests. “This project is adding to the ability of the people in East Timor to help themselves. We feel it is a worthwhile project and want to express our support.”

Washington Stake Builds Natural Greenway

“I think you should take on a more realistic project,” the Kennewick city manager told representatives of the Kennewick Washington East Stake when they proposed turning an unsafe, overgrown canyon into a nature trail and recreation area as a Church sesquicentennial service project in 1997.

But volunteers moved ahead, spending the next five years clearing thorny blackberry bushes and Russian olive trees; planting trees, shrubs, and flowers; constructing culvert bridges; channeling streams; and building walls. Their efforts were rewarded by the dedication of “The Spirit of America Trail” in October 2002.

Joined by other community organizations, almost 1,000 volunteers provided 20,000 hours of labor to remove garbage, dispose of trees blocking the trail, and create a “sanctuary in an urban setting,” as one reporter described it. At least six Eagle Scout projects were completed as part of the work done in the canyon.

“I have never seen anything like the commitment and dedication of these people,” says Cindy Cole, manager of buildings and grounds. “It’s amazing.”

Players from throughout the community go three-on-three in Hong Kong’s seventh annual basketball tournament. (Photograph courtesy of Asia Area Public Affairs.)

Members in Honolulu show off their handiwork. Working with community groups, they made bags full of toys and blankets for local children in crisis. (Photograph courtesy of Honolulu Hawaii Stake Public Affairs.)