Mormons turn out for day of service in Northeast

By Marcia Nelson

For the Deseret News

Published: Sunday, Aug. 14 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Volunteers in the Bronx, N.Y., listen to a reading of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proclamation on the day of service.

Provided by Marcia Nelson

Even a blistering heat wave couldn't stop 2,500 Latter-day Saints from turning out for a day of service.

Members of 13 stakes and districts in the New York metro tri-state area heeded President Henry B. Eyring’s call from general conference to serve by turning out in 100-degree weather to perform community service at approximately 50 different locations in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York.

Wearing yellow vests and armed with power tools, paint brushes, sheet music, ukuleles and lots and lots of water, volunteers built wheelchair ramps, sang at nursing homes, prepared hygiene kits, harvested corn and picked up trash.

“I wish I had taken a camera,” said Elder Jeffery E. Olson, Area Seventy, “so I could have recorded the gratitude of the director of a community child-care center in east New York, the refreshed spirits of a beleaguered mayor in Passaic, the incredulity of the director of a community center in one of the toughest and poorest neighborhoods in the Bronx, the smile on a homeowner whose biggest housing problems have been repaired. I would also have recorded the satisfaction on the faces of the members. It is hard to have a bad service project, even during a heat wave.”

Some non-LDS volunteers showed up at Liberty State Park in New Jersey to provide service through another organization, but when they couldn’t find their own project, they joined the Mormons.

“We mulched every tree in the park,” said Brad Thatcher, first counselor in the Caldwell New Jersey Stake presidency. “The park has never had so many volunteers at one time, and Friends of Liberty State Park were very happy and hope we will keep them in mind for future service projects.”

Another group took a carnival theme to a local assisted living home where they played games and enjoyed a barbecue. "Our lives were enriched by these wonderful people,” said Diane McCready, stake Relief Society president in East Brunswick, N.J. “What a great day — even the heat couldn’t discourage us!”

In the Bronx, youths and leaders alike cleaned, painted and remodeled a local community center.

“I really can't tell you how amazing the day was for me and everyone here and how truly impressed we were by all of you,” said Adam Liebowitz, director of community development at The Point CDC. “We have had many service days over the years, and this was by far and away the most successful, productive and organized one we have ever witnessed."

Volunteers in Brooklyn, N.Y., distributed free lunches and participated in activities with residents of the Lutheran Augustana Center.

“We were excited to be involved in this day of serving and look forward to being out in our communities serving, lifting and getting to know others,” said Jeff Nelson, Brooklyn New York Stake president. “We are also striving to serve more often — making service a way of life.”

Gov. Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City issued proclamations congratulating members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on their day of service, and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York sent commendation letters.

“We are thankful to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their service to others and invitation to all of the residents of all faiths and backgrounds to join with them as they celebrate their anniversary of service,” Malloy wrote in his proclamation. The letters and proclamations were read during opening ceremonies at each site.

Marcia Nelson is the New York metro multi-stake public affairs assistant director.

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