“Submerged in Service,” New Era, May 2001, 14
Charlee Ann Voorhees didn’t get involved in service to get attention. But when she lost herself in the service of others, she ended up finding herself featured in the newspaper and speaking about service at youth conventions.
When Charlee’s parents divorced, she felt overwhelmed. She was in the middle of a situation she couldn’t do much about and needed something to take her mind off of her problems.
It was during that time she heard a Young Women lesson about service. The teacher told her class that serving others is a good way to get through personal problems.
“I decided I needed to get more involved,” says Charlee, a Laurel in the Sioux Falls (South Dakota) First Ward. “I was involved in a lot of other things, but as far as service, I didn’t have much of that kind of involvement in my life.”
Once Charlee submerged herself in service, she found that many of her own problems were put into perspective. “My parents were divorcing, but I could help people even though I wasn’t exactly having the best time myself,” she says.
When Charlee was looking for service opportunities, she attended a volunteer fair where she signed up for nearly every service group represented. But one organization really caught her eye: Sioux Falls’ Promise, an organization that involves youth in community service and other activities.
Charlee applied for a position on the youth board for Sioux Falls’ Promise. She was accepted, and before long she was elected president of the board.
As president, Charlee says her main goal was to create awareness of the concerns, problems, and issues that teens have in Sioux Falls. She served as an advocate for the youth of her community. One of the ways she did that was to hold a town meeting with the youth and the mayor. In that meeting, the teens raised their concerns about youth drug and alcohol abuse and a city curfew.
“Since that meeting, the mayor has actually come to us before making decisions and asked what we think about certain issues,” she says.
Charlee also organized a youth convention to discuss teens’ concerns. More than 1,000 teens attended the convention, where they discussed making friends, resolving conflicts, controlling anger, and using service to improve communities.
The success of the convention led to an invitation for Charlee and the youth board to attend a national youth convention. While there, Charlee discussed service with Colin Powell, chairman of America’s Promise and now United States Secretary of State.
As Charlee has worked to get the youth of Sioux Falls involved in service, she has seen what a dose of service can do for the giver as well as the receiver. “You get the chance to see that others are struggling, too. It’s a big eye-opener for how fortunate you are in your own life.”
“I have learned that it is by serving that we learn how to serve. When we are engaged in the service of our fellowmen, not only do our deeds assist them, but we put our own problems in a fresher perspective. When we concern ourselves more with others, there is less time to be concerned with ourselves. In the midst of the miracle of serving, there is the promise of Jesus, that by losing ourselves, we find ourselves. (See Matt. 10:39.)
“Not only do we ‘find’ ourselves in terms of acknowledging guidance in our lives, but the more we serve our fellowmen in appropriate ways, the more substance there is to our souls. We become more significant individuals as we serve others. We become more substantive as we serve others—indeed, it is easier to ‘find’ ourselves because there is so much more of us to find” (Ensign, Dec. 1974, 2).
—President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985)