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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mormon Helping Hands Day Of Service: LDS Congregations Launch A Blizzard Of Service Projects Nationwide

A typical example of Mormon Helping Hands in action
On Saturday April 28th 2012, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints observed a Mormon Helping Hands Day of Service statewide in both California and Hawaii, as well as in other areas. The Mormon Helping Hands program was established in 1998 and, in the last decade, hundreds of thousands of Mormon volunteers have donated millions of hours of service all over the world. The five objectives of the program, in order of priority, are to help the needy and improve communities, to strengthen church members, to share the gospel indirectly by example, to build relationships with opinion leaders, and to enhance the reputation of the Church.

In California, LDS officials estimate that 60,000 church members were doing volunteer work, backed by thousands more. Some of the projects reported by local media:

-- LDS communities in Lodi and Galt, California led efforts on April 28th to clean up local parks, schools, and libraries in both cities.

-- Members of the San Clemente California Stake launched an effort to renovate Forster Ranch Park on April 28th. They planted trees and shrubs, mulched planter areas and painted the restroom building and picnic structures.

-- Members of the Menifee California Stake, extending from Lake Elsinore to Perris, helped plant aquatic vegetation in a 65-acre wetlands basin (now de-watered) at the south end of the city. This is a part of the Wetlands Enhancement Project, which will serve both as a prototype and as a future seed area for native aquatic vegetation to be transplanted to the margins of the lake. The Stake also donated 500 pounds each of rice and beans, so a portion of the expected 200 volunteers will be bagging these goods on behalf of H.O.P.E., a local charity.

-- The Palm Desert California Stake led a community cleanup from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for the fourth annual Coachella Valley Helping Hands Day.

-- Volunteers from the Canoga Park California Stake, to include members from congregations in Woodland Hills, West Hills, Canoga Park, Reseda, Tarzana and the Korean branch, led a cleanup of the Chatsworth Equestrian riding trails. From 9-11 A.M., they engaged in branch trimming, weeding, trash pick-up and leaf removal.

-- LDS members from the Inland Empire communities of Redlands, Highland, Loma Linda and Mentone participated in an overall community beautification effort. Projects included laying two acres of sod at Orangewood High School, painting Fire Station No. 263 on Pennsylvania Street, beautifying Texonia and Prospect parks, and fixing up veterans' homes.

-- Ventura County was the scene of considerable LDS service activity. An estimated 196 LDS members sanded, painted, poured cement, and cleaned Steckel Park in Sanat Paula. The Newbury Park Stake began its service on April 20th, supporting the American Cancer Society's annual Relay for Life at Willow Elementary School in Agoura Hills. The Thousand Oaks Stake split into two groups working on beautification projects in each city. And the Simi Valley Stake held a daylong food drive to benefit the Salvation Army.

And there was one project in North Carolina that attracted media attention:

-- The LDS Church is in the middle of a huge food drive to help the hungry in the Charlotte area. Volunteers handed out empty bags with fliers to neighborhoods explaining what they are doing, in hopes families will fill them with non-perishable food items. They collected the filled bags on April 28th, 2012 for the Second Harvest Food Bank. This is a four-year tradition that has provided countless meals in the greater Charlotte area.

These aren't the big-ticket hero projects that attract the attention of over-publicized rockers like Bono. But these projects are still important to the residents of the communities where they took place. They are more in keeping with the call by former President George H.W. Bush for "a thousand points of light".

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