“Having Fun Helping Others,” Tambuli, Oct. 1989, 44
Searching for a great idea for a youth conference? The Aurora Colorado Stake has a suggestion.
Like shoveling gravel, digging dirt, weeding, painting, washing cars.
Mixed with fun and fellowship.
There’s an explanation. The young people from Aurora wanted to do something different for their youth conference, something special. So they spent three days cleaning up a city.
“We asked the stake youth committee what they wanted to do,” explained Richard C. Humpherys, second counselor in the stake presidency. “They said, ‘something to help someone else,’ and ‘something to build our testimonies.’ Since they asked for it, we encouraged them to go ahead.”
Inspired by a story on service in the Tambuli (see “Building a House Helped Build Testimonies,” February 1988, page 47), the youth committee looked around for a community they could help. They settled on Granby for three reasons: it was close to Aurora; economically the community wasn’t doing very well; and the mayor, town council, and chamber of commerce seemed genuinely interested in providing projects for the youth to work on.
There was an added benefit, too. The small Latter-day Saint branch in Granby, with a total of five active families, had youth who would welcome some company and fellowship with other Church youth. And, while the young people from Aurora were there, it was decided, they could help paint the Granby chapel.
Buses left Aurora at 7:00 on a Thursday morning. By 10:30 A.M., eighty-four young people divided into eight teams were busy all over Granby. Since they were all wearing identical T-shirts, they were fairly conspicuous. And a local radio station advertising the Latter-day Saint youth’s free car wash also let people know who they were and what they were doing.
“We went into a store to buy some soft drinks,” said Andy Clapton, 18, who had been shoveling gravel all morning at the train depot. “The salesclerk said, ‘Are you the Mormon kids? You’re doing a great job.’”
“Lots of people have asked what we’re doing,” said Sandra Hilborne, 15, as she cleaned up a planter box on the main street. “We tell them we’re helping others and having fun at the same time.”
And that, really, is what began to happen. The young people discovered the joy of serving their fellowmen.
“I wasn’t very excited at first,” said Liza Zmolek, 14, sweeping a sidewalk. “But then I saw people watching us. I felt like somebody was counting on me, so I started working hard, and it felt good.”
Angelica Velez, 15, wiped her forehead, then smiled. “When we first got to the cemetery,” she said, “you couldn’t even see the tombstones. Then we brought in lawn mowers and weed cutters and raked it up and carried out a lot of branches and wood. Now you can see what we’ve done, and it looks nice.”
Ginny Stafford, 14, spent the morning on her knees, pulling weeds till her fingers were stained green. She said out loud what a lot of people were feeling: “It’s dirty work, but when you’re done, you feel happy, not dirty.”
“It’s nice to do something for others” said Jacob Carter, 15.
Besides cleaning up the main street of Granby, washing cars, tidying the cemetery, spreading gravel at the train depot, and chopping weeds at a main intersection on the highway into town, the youth painted the city’s historic log church, landscaped its grounds, and polished the benches and the organ inside.
“I though that was neat,” said Daphne Motto, 17. “It didn’t matter that it’s not a Latter-day Saint church. It’s like we were saying, we’re all brothers and sisters and we need to help each other.”
And of course, that’s very much what the youth were saying over at the chapel.
“It was kind of scary what two full buses drove up,” said Corey Trial, 13, one of four active Latter-day Saint teenagers from Granby.
“I’ve lived here all my life,” said Mark Bickmore, 14, “I’d never seen that many young people before with the same religion as me.”
Soon Ray Beaty, 16, of Granby, was working side by side with Aurora youth he’d only met that morning. “We get lonely up here, and sometimes we think we’re all alone. But working together like this, I think we’ve formed some friendships that will last.
And Vickie Adams, 13, the only Granby girl active in Young Women, said, “I’m not used to this many people. It helps me feel like there are other Mormons around.”
The Granby youth and the youth from Aurora did everything at the conference together, not only the service projects, but the other activities as well. They played volleyball together. They played football together. They even played soccer with an oversized ball.
Activities included a Hawaiian-style dinner with a floor show, a swimming party, and a dance. But the main activity was conversation, a sharing of ideals and fellowship.
“I found out the Church is a lot smaller here,” said Fred Tanquary, 17. “I mean, there are only four youth in the branch. But I think we all had the gospel in common, and they just became a part of us.”
Over the three-day period, the youth from Granby and the youth from Aurora grew comfortable discussing common goals—missionary work, reading and sharing the Book of Mormon, morality and standards, maintaining faith when the world’s full of doubt. That closeness was also reinforced at nightly devotionals, where leaders stressed themes such as “Little Decisions Made Now Have Big Consequences Later,” “Gospel Suggestions on How to Be Happy,” and “Your Most Important Possession is Your Testimony.”
But of course, as it always is, the final meeting of the conference was the highlight. In a sunlit room, the Latter-day Saint youth met Granby’s mayor, Jerry Roberts. The presented him with framed historical photographs of Granby, which now hang in the train station, and with a Book of Mormon, which they hope he will read. They listened while he expressed the community’s gratitude.
Then the youth and their leaders spent an hour or two talking to each other, speaking from the heart.
One young man who has been struggling to keep the commandments told the rest of the group they had helped him.
“I’ve known for a long time that I need to change some things,” he said. “And being here has helped me see how happy you can be just doing what’s right. I’m making a change. I’m starting over.”
Another young man, a priest, said that he’d only been active in the Church for a year. “This is the only youth conference Ive ever been to,” he said. “But I’ve really felt the Spirit here.”
Others, like Holly Mattison, 16, talked about living the gospel in a high school where, as a Latter-day Saint, she’s outnumbered. “It’s not always easy,” she said. “There are lots of challenges.” But she said a talk at one of the devotional reminded her that the Savior loves her, that he know her by name and will help her to be strong.
Of course, as they talked, the youth also offered an evaluation of their three days of service.
Darla Evans, 17, said she thought it was great to do something at a youth conference besides entertaining yourself. “Most years, we do something just for us, but this has all been for other people.”
Then the president of the Granby Branch, Gary M. Cooper, spoke.
“The branch was formed fifteen years ago, he said, “and I can honestly say that this is the best thing that’s ever happened to us. We appreciate that you took the time to come here and bring us into the limelight in our Community. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a long time. You did a lot of work and you cleaned up the community, and that’s important. But what I really hope is that because of your example, someone will accept the gospel. That would be the greatest service of all.”