Before lockdown was announced, volunteering to help locals was an everyday part of the day for four young men serving in Southport, near Liverpool. Now, as restrictions ease, it’s back on their agenda.
Elder Castillo, from Dublin, said, “We are eager to get involved in local outdoor projects again. Please contact us if we can help you. Having the opportunity to be of service to the people in Southport is such a blessing. Seeing others happy and uplifted brings so much joy. I’m glad that I decided to serve a mission to purely focus on helping people, not only to find faith in Christ, but to help them feel of His love through service”
Volunteering in the local community is a priority for these four missionaries. A lady, who was not a member of the Church, suffered a bereavement at the start of the year. She wanted to make her overgrown garden a sanctuary, a lovely place to sit and remember her loved one. After hearing of her need, all four got to work.
One of the four, Elder Roy, from Huddersfield, said, “It was an absolute pleasure to be able to serve this sweet lady after she had experienced such a devastating time.” The grateful resident said, “They did a wonderful job and really worked hard.”
Technology has been wonderful in keeping people connected during the time of isolation forced by the country’s lockdown. Members of the Church in Southport produced an online talent show to share with their families and friends.
Esther Wall, who initiated the idea and produced the show, felt it was a vital way to keep in contact with other members, helping them to keep engaged with one another and continue with Church activities via the Internet.
Esther, a primary school teacher said, “I felt this was particularly important for the children of the Church. Since they have not been able to see their friends or attend Church, I wanted to create an event where the parents and children were able to share videos and pictures of their many talents. Our children are all missing each other desperately. Some of them feel sad and even lonely due to being isolated from their peers. The talent show was a way of helping them see their friends and display their talents.”
Members of all ages submitted acts on video, which were then edited, combined and put online. Members went online to watch and comment on the performances.
Esther continued, “Acts ranged from a magic show to Shakespeare. We had a spoof music video, a rapper, gymnastic displays, singers, a pianist, a banjo player and some dancers.” Esther’s four-year-old son Samson said, “I really loved taking part in the show. It was exciting, but the best bit was seeing all my friends on the computer.”
During lockdown many people, organisations and businesses in the town have been helping, in different ways. Birkdale Chiropractic Clinic, which opened its doors again for urgent cases in late June, is run by Scott and Debbie Fullwood, who started the practice over 25 years ago. As members of the Church they lend-a-hand habitually, but they have been further inspired by the whole community coming together during this crisis.
Debbie, the practice administrator, said, “We have both been truly impressed with the hard work and dedication of all the NHS workers during this COVID-19 pandemic. With other key workers and volunteers, teachers who missed their Easter and half term holidays, shop staff and refuse collectors, neighbours and carers who have gone over and above the call of duty. What an amazing effort from everyone. We here at Birkdale Chiropractic Clinic wanted to play a small part in the relief efforts made by so many on our behalf. We had friends, with sewing skills, who were busily making scrubs (medical workers’ uniforms) and bags for their safe transportation to and from work. They needed materials, so we were delighted to be able to donate over 70 of our clinic gowns for the purpose.”
Last Saturday the clinic also hosted a ‘mask tree’ outside the clinic. The masks had been generously made and donated by a local volunteer group called ‘For the love of scrubs, Southport and Ormskirk.’ The group made hundreds of scrubs, scrub bags, and face masks, for local frontline workers. Masks placed on the tree at the clinic were free to take by the general public.
Debbie commented, “Everyone is doing such a great job trying their best to help. Each and every one of them deserves our thanks.”
Churches across the world suspended their sacred services to limit contact and the spread of COVID-19. The Church has encouraged families to undertake Sunday worship in their homes with those with whom they are isolating. Many faithful people have found creative ways to continue to worship and stay connected with their congregation. Peter Rigby, Bishop of the Southport branch of the Church, is happy that his congregation is still actively worshiping.
Peter said the local branch was protecting vulnerable people when it comes to COVID-19, such as the elderly. “We can go to the shops for them, pick up medication, provide food for those who are unable to procure the things they need. We are eager to find new opportunities to serve those who need our help. We can experience joy even through difficult times, and this is a time to band together, to exercise our faith, to put into practice all we have learnt as Christians and to care for one another. Our members are also connecting with those who are isolating alone via technology enjoying services, lessons and activities online together.” The branch’s meeting house is also still being used by the NHS to collect blood donations. “We are eager to try to help others and the community during this time. That is what we are encouraging people to do,” Peter concluded.
It was ‘afternoon tea’ with red, white and blue bunting in the front garden of the Walls’ family home, in Southport town centre, on Friday 8th May. The 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) Day was being celebrated.
Esther Wall, a member of the Church, is a keen family historian and uses FamilySearch.org, to access family records and data. Esther said, “FamilySearch.org is such an easy and exciting way to discover your family’s history. Anyone can use it. It helps connect you with your past and I feel a deep gratitude to those who have gone before. My Grandad, Brian Sayers, was a wonderful man, who lived in Southport for most of his life. VE Day was life changing for him; he was in the army, and on that particular day he was on leave. While making fireworks to help in the celebrations he had a horrific accident, when one exploded prematurely, and he lost his eye. Although he had terrible injuries he always reflected on the day as a blessing in his life because, as he was in hospital recovering from his injuries, he didn’t join the rest of his regiment over in Japan. Something he always felt guilty about, as not one of his comrades returned from that deployment. However, he did meet a beautiful young lady called Sheila Parker who worked as a secretary. She was assigned to read to him at his hospital bedside. They fell in love, married and made Southport their permanent home. They brought up four children here. They have 20 grandchildren and now 14 great grandchildren, most of them still living here in the town. Unfortunately, Grandad Sayers died two years ago but how could we not join in the VE celebration after he left us such a great legacy. That day certainly was pivotal in our family history.”
Jared Harbon, a full-time missionary for the Church, celebrated his 21st birthday recently while in lockdown on the Isle of Wight. His family and members of the Church in Southport rallied together to send him packages of gifts and treats to help him celebrate.
His mother, Christine Harbon, added, “Jared is always eager to volunteer to help people whenever and wherever he can. Before he left on his mission, he regularly helped out with local community projects though our Church and he was also a frequent volunteer at Everton Football Club’s ‘Everton in the Community’, which helps bring sport to children, and adults with disabilities.’
Elder Harbon, said, “I am continuing missionary work while social distancing by using social media to contact people interested in learning more about our faith. I am also ringing local members on the Isle of Wight to check if they, or people they know, need any help or support.”
When the Southport Soup Kitchen was first established in 2002, members of the Church recognised it as an opportunity to become involved in supporting the local community and helping out those most in need in the town. Linda Roberts, who liaises between the two organisations said, “We started by collecting clothes and gifts for the needy and very quickly the late Justin Dempster (a founder of the Soup Kitchen) became a friend of our Church. Over the years we have assisted in many ways including regular donations of canned food goods, Easter chocolate bars and Christmas confectionery that our members donate and wrap, then they are included in the patrons Christmas gift hampers every year. We have helped out with other jobs at the building too including clearing, painting and making it safe.”
After the Soup Kitchen’s property on London Street experienced flooding, Latter-day Saints volunteered to redecorate the cellar, where the food is stored, and the dining room. Marie Buchanan, the chairperson of the facility is very thankful for the help the Church provides.
Linda estimates that around 1,800 confectionary items have been donated since 2011. She said, “This year the children of our Church were preparing Easter cards and messages that they were going to help me to deliver, along with the chocolate that they and their families had donated. We thought it would be a magnificent opportunity for the children to learn a little about sacrifice and to lend a hand while serving those less fortunate than themselves.” Unfortunately, the children have been unable to help with the delivery, because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Linda made the delivery alone although she was able to include a few messages from the congregation’s youngsters in the parcels.
Noah and Sophie Fullwood, members of the Church, live close to Southport town centre and wanted to help lift the spirit in their neighbourhood. Sophie, aged six, said, “We can’t see our friends anymore. No school, and we aren’t allowed to go to the playgrounds either.”
Noah, age eight, added, “We live near a corner shop and I have seen people walking past our gate looking very sad and grumpy. We thought that we may be able to make people happy again if they saw some of our drawings and happy messages. If lots of people put a rainbow in their window it would also be like a big game of ‘I spy’ for people who have to go outside.”
Chloe, their mother, said, “I saw a similar idea being done in another part of the country, on Facebook. I mentioned it to the children, and they loved the idea and wanted to go one step further by making our windows a positive message to the community. They sit in the window and get very excited when passers-by give them a big smile or a wave. It’s not much but I am so glad that they are thinking of others and wanting to spread a little bit of joy in this troubled world. In my opinion we could all take a lesson from their book.”
Reading the Diary of Anne Frank, a girl enduring isolation during World War II, has helped some Southport girls accept the emotions of their lockdown period. Twelve-year old Grace Harbon said, “Young Women’s was started over 150 years ago, with a handful of girls. Today there are over a million girls, living in 182 countries, speaking 170 languages! At the moment, we can’t actually meet up with our local group, so we started a book club to help us keep connected. We have also been enjoying virtual meetings where we learn new skills, crafts and share baking ideas. We then drop off the items we have made to people who we know need cheering up. We do a lot of fun stuff. It helps us to learn about so many things and to think about others”.