Challenge of Community Service

“Challenge of Community Service,” New Era, Feb. 1972, 20–21

Challenge of Community Service

It would probably surprise most Latter-day Saints—both adults and youth—to know how deeply involved contemporary Mormon youth are in community cleanups, caring for elderly shut-ins, blood drives, hospital volunteer work, tutoring, and many other fascinating projects.

These general guidelines seem to be basic if you’re planning to get in on the action:

1. Get involved with other Latter-day Saints like yourself and make your project part of a Church-related group activity.

2. If your project is new, start small. Make a real effort to do the initial project well; then expand as experience, funds, support, and publicity increase.

3. If you’re part of a fund-raising project of benefit to the whole school or community, solicit support from well-known campus and community individuals, groups, or merchants.

4. Wherever possible, involve Mormons and non-Mormons who are not usually associated with Church activities.

Community service projects seem to divide themselves into two categories: special events projects and steady projects.

Special events projects are activities such as fund-raising carnivals, car washes, Christmas caroling at convalescent homes. These projects are typically annual or semiannual events, often requiring much time and manpower to prepare. However, they have the advantage of usually being unique in the community or school and have the potential of being well publicized.

Steady projects are activities that require a more sustained effort over a longer period of time, such as working with Boy Scout troops among disadvantaged youth, tutoring, and doing volunteer hospital work. Programs in this category usually have an already-functioning, permanent organization, and it’s easy for you to step into a special niche.

Here are three sample projects:

1. The Venice Project in Los Angeles. For the past two years Mormon students at UCLA have held successful Christmas parties for underprivileged children in Venice, near Los Angeles. First, they contact the California State Service Center and receive the names of seventy-five children between five and twelve years of age. The day of the party, all seventy-five children are gathered by the center at one locale. Merchants donate cookies, ice cream, and presents. Decorated trees are given to the children’s families after the party. Said one student leader, “We learned that many people outside our own group were anxious to help. We also learned that you need plenty of games to hold the interest of everyone.”

2. Tutoring Project at Utah State University. Mormon student tutors meet twice weekly for one hour at the institute of religion building to offer counsel to fellow students—some needing social and emotional help, some academic assistance. The students first contacted the university staff and worked out a coordinated effort. The project now assists retarded children throughout Cache Valley. A student leader voiced a caution: “If you’re interested in this kind of activity, proceed only under the supervision of a professionally qualified teacher or counselor.”

3. Cub Scout Project at the University of Utah. Often working in pairs, Mormon students on the campus meet weekly with a den of from ten to twelve Cub Scouts, representing a variety of races and religions. They help the young boys to fly kites, play ball, and tour interesting spots in the city. Contact your local Boy Scout headquarters to get started in this type of project.