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Karen Lake
About 277 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers in bright yellow vests worked at the El Toro Cemetery in Lake Forest, Calif. to benefit the community. The Santa Margarita Stake members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were part of the 70,000 volunteers participating in California’s Mormon Helping Hands 2012 day of Service.

LAKE FOREST, Calif. — A total of 277 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers, each sporting a bright yellow vest, worked at the El Toro Cemetery in the Orange County, California city of Lake Forest. The Santa Margarita California Stake members were part of the 70,000 volunteers participating at the event sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Mormon Helping Hands 2012 Day of Service on April 28.

Tim Deutsch, general manager of the Orange County Cemetery District, talked with his staff to find a project that he thought would be the most beneficial. The cemetery decided the major project should be to repaint the green wrought-iron fence on the frontage road, because it had the most visual impact in the community. General landscaping and cleaning children’s markers were also completed.

Wendy Vassilaros sat in a planning meeting for Mormon Helping Hands several months ago, to discuss possible community service events. Past events included parks, schools and community centers, but Vassilaros could only think of one place and that was the El Toro Memorial.

“My 3-year-old daughter Hailey is buried there," Vassilaros said. "I visit several times a week and find it so peaceful and beautiful. When we were thinking of a place to serve, I immediately thought of 'Hailey's Place,' as I call it. I figured I wasn't the only one in our community to have a loved one resting there, so it would be an honor to volunteer.”

Vassilaros was right on that account. A woman who had lost her husband of 50 years personally thanked one Mormon Helping Hands volunteer at the cemetery. She expressed her gratitude for the service performed at a place that meant so much to her.

President Jim Carter of the Santa Margarita California Stake presidency said, “This project was different than any Mormon Helping Hands project we have ever completed. There was a reverence and feeling of importance being on these beautiful grounds.”

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Deutsch said, “The coordination between the cemetery district and the church was wonderful. We had a great turnout, and I can’t say enough positive things about the willing and industrious workers. We look forward to working with Mormon Helping Hands in the years to come.”

Grief Turns to Service with Mormon Helping Hands Project

Two years previous to attending a Mormon Helping Hands 2012 planning meeting, Wendy Vassilaros' 3-year-old daughter died. She laid her to rest at El Toro Memorial in Lake Forest, Calif. She and other church members thought this might be a perfect place to give back to the community that had given so much to her.