By Cecily Markland
One Gilbert ward has mobilized efforts to extend “Mormon Helping Hands” to their neighbors and community.
“I’m pretty excited about it, actually,” said Becky Abernethy, Relief Society president in the Windrift Ward, Gilbert Stake. “The project is a great way to promote missionary efforts and to be a force for good in the community.”
She says it is also “helping us to know our neighbors better.”
Sister Abernethy says her sister, Maryann Koski, lives in Long Island, New York, and was there when Hurricane Sandy hit.
“Afterwards, members showed up in the work clothes and their Mormon Helping Hands vests to help. The stories are phenomenal about what happened in a community that knew next to nothing about the Mormons and now have a love for the Church,” Becky said.
Wanting to have a similar impact in her own community, Sister Abernethy talked to Bishop Ron Knight about getting started with ongoing service projects in their Gilbert neighborhood.
They ordered 60 of the yellow and blue, Mormon Helping Hands vests from the Church Distribution Center. Then, they started with a fireside about service and a huge kickoff project to pull weeds and clean up the property surrounding the bishop’s home.
“It was the perfect kickoff for everything,” Becky says. “The place looked beautiful afterwards.”
One of the teenagers said she came to help, because she “wanted to wear a vest;” and, one of the young boys said he “felt famous” wearing a Helping Hands vest, Becky says.
After the initial kickoff, to keep the momentum going, Becky’s husband, Miles, made a “Helping Hands” bulletin board to hang in the ward building.
“We post things on the bulletin board to give our ward members ideas of things they can do to help and to serve,” Becky says.
“We’ve encouraged our ward members to watch and make us aware of visible projects that we could get out in the community and do.”
They began to amass a wide variety of ideas—all within their own neighborhood. They asked ward members, “What neighbors of yours need help?” They went to some of the senior members in the ward and asked what kind of help they needed. They identified those houses that were near pine trees and, says Becky, “The Elders Quorum members went around the neighborhood, asking, ‘Can we help you get the pine needles off your roof.’”
They also organized a project for the Church Humanitarian Services. “We invited neighbors to participate and used five homes in the neighborhood where we dressed dolls, made family night packets and assembled activity packets,” Sister Abernethy says.
She adds that the attitude of service has continued to permeate the ward.
A humanitarian specialist—Thea Mansuetto—has been called to help organize the ongoing projects; and the priesthood leaders and all of the organizations have shown support for the efforts.
“It has to be ‘owned’ by the ward to work,” Becky says, “but, each of the organizations has stepped up and looked for ways to help, and it’s starting to function really well.”