A new initiative is giving Arizona Latter-day Saints ample opportunities to serve others and to work shoulder to shoulder within the community to relieve suffering, care for the poor and needy and enhance the quality of life in the community.
JustServe makes it easy for missionaries, individuals, families, wards and youth groups to find ways to be of service, says Michelle Curry, a member of the Metro Phoenix Public Affairs Council and chair over Community Outreach.
The website, JustServe.org, while created and provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is designed to be used by any community or faith-based organizations that need volunteers as well as by any members of the community who wish to participate in service projects.
“JustServe matches faith, nonprofit, community and governmental organizations that need volunteers with volunteers willing to help. JustServe.org links you to service opportunities in your community so you can make a difference wherever you are and however you want to serve,” states the JustServe website.
Michelle, who is a member Ahwatukee Groves Ward, Tempe West Stake and has been instrumental in rolling out the JustServe.org initiative in Arizona, says, “There is an amazing variety of projects listed on the site, so anyone can find things that suit their particular circumstances. Then if something speaks to you, you can go right to that project and sign up.”
For example, one young couple with no children yet and no family in the area wanted to find a way to participate in some kind of service activity on Christmas day. They found several different projects listed on JustServe.org.
What site visitors won’t find is projects that are political in nature or fundraising activities or that would require participants to handle money. The site also states clearly that “JustServe is not for proselytizing or publicity–simply a service to help link community volunteer needs with volunteers.”
“As members of the Church, we are good at helping others within our ward or stake, and we do great at helping with disaster relief,” says Michelle, “but a poll conducted by the Church showed that we aren’t especially known for ongoing service within our community.
“When we reach out to lift another person and strengthen them financially, emotionally or physically, something happens within ourselves,” Michelle says. “I love the quote from Bishop Glenn Pace’s conference talk in 1990, when he said, ‘We must reach out beyond the walls of our own church. … we cannot become the salt of the earth if we stay in one lump in the cultural halls of our beautiful meetinghouses.”
“Service is an important part of our growth as followers of Christ. It helps us develop the kind of love that will help others come to know Savior more.”
Michelle says she found it interesting that the Church refers to JustServe as an initiative, “but, it makes total sense,” she says. “Charity cannot be made into a program.”
A great deal of work has been done to create the website and the infrastructure for encouraging participation in the initiative, including having community service specialists called in each stake and city specialists (referred to as community outreach specialists) called to help coordinate with the cities and other organizations to get projects listed.
Ultimately, however, it comes down to individuals and families to perform the service, Michelle says. “Justserve.org is presented to the Church members and they take an initiative to do it.”
Fulltime missionaries are also expected to take the initiative to serve. Missionaries can do up to 10 hours of service per week,” Michelle says.
Each mission now has a JustServe specialist, and missionaries can search JustServe.org themselves to find projects they may be interested in helping with.
“The reception in the communities has been really wonderful,” says Michelle. “We now have a lot of organizations contacting us to learn more.”
John Power is has been called as the JustServe Community Outreach Specialist – Chandler, meaning he works with various Chandler organizations, including several churches to help them understand how JustServe.org could be of benefit to them.
For example, Chandler Christian Community Center (CCCC) sponsors I-HELP (Interfaith Homeless Emergency Lodging Program). This program is “centered on the generosity of faith-based organizations in our community who are willing to open their facilities one night a week/or month to provide shelter and a safe place to sleep for homeless individuals and those temporarily without shelter.”
About 10 to 14 times a year, the Chandler, Chandler East, Chandler West, and Mesa Alma Stakes each take food to a local church, where the homeless are being housed under the I-HELP program.
The Mesa Alma Stake recently participated, taking food to Pastor/Chandler City Councilman/Vice Mayor Kevin Hartke’s church, Trinity Christian Fellowship.
Julie Campbell, the Mesa Alma Stake I-HELP Coordinator, reported: “Tonight’s I-Help meal with Kleinman Park Ward went really well. Bishop Martin and his wife were there along with three other adults and their Young Women’s and Young Men’s group. The YW served the food and all ate and mingled with the guests.”
In another community outreach effort, the Liahona 5th Ward, under the direction of Bishop Merino, volunteered to help the Chandler First Church of the Nazarene complete a remodeling project. Ten men participated, working for approximately five hours to remove a wall to make one larger room, and install a wall to make an office for the Assistant Pastor. After the project, Tom Coffin, the president of the church’s council, said they were extremely pleased and appreciated the help.
Sarah Haines, with Special Olympics, found out just how powerful listing a project on JustServe.org can be.
Brandon Slinker, the Buckeye community outreach specialist, says he had helped her list a project on JustServe site. Less than 20 hours later, she asked him to take it down. When he asked why, she responded, “We just filled up for volunteers for the event, with a good portion coming from your site. I have been very impressed with the turn out of the two events we had posted on the site. I have another event on February 20 on the east side so I will be submitting that to you this week.’”
Robin Finlinson helped organize a successful JustServe community blood drive, and Roger Decker, Mesa East community outreach specialist, says he has enjoyed seeing how JustServe has helped the food bank in his area.
“The food bank loves the missionaries so much that they have developed an ongoing relationship with them for service opportunities. Their director loves to show the picture of ‘her missionaries,’” Roger says.
He says someone from his stake reported: “Making liaisons with the community partners has been a joy. We took our family to the RSM/Manna Food Bank to help over the holidays. While my husband was taking the food out to the car of an elderly black gentleman, he turned to my husband and said, “Thank you so much for this…I have nothing.” He then hugged my husband and wept on his shoulder.”
Michelle says the many others that continue to be reported and posted on the website are excellent examples that underscore the fact that: “JustServe.org is a gift to the community, an absolutely wonderful gift.”
“I encourage you to go to JustServe.org right now,” she says. Sign up and then see how you can start being of service to others.”