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Marcella Deter
Volunteers in Aliso Viejo, California, package meals for Stop Hunger Now, an organization that sends meals to school feeding programs around the world. The Laguna Niguel stake hosted the event during the JustServe Helping Hands event on April 25.

North America West Area members commemorated the sixth annual tradition of community service with the JustServe Helping Hands project on April 25. Formerly known as Mormon Helping Hands and Day of Community Service, the annual event was integrated with the JustServe.org initiative, a website designed to bring faith, community, non-profit and government organizations, as well as individuals wanting to serve, together to accomplish large-scale service projects.

In the months before the JustServe Helping Hands event, stake representatives, community leaders, elected officials, community service groups and other church leaders in California and Hawaii worked together to plan and implement hundreds of service projects. Approximately 50,000 volunteers gathered for community beautification projects, food drives and humanitarian projects, among others.

These are two of the many projects completed on April 25:

Mission San Luis Rey

Nearly 350 members of the Carlsbad California Stake joined volunteers from local Catholic parishes to clean and repair the lavenderia or laundry area, grounds and surrounding trails at the Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California. Volunteers swept and carefully shoveled dirt from adobe brick steps and a large rectangular basin that was once a washing area, as well as trimmed and pruned overgrown trees and cactus in the 215-year old garden.

Several members considered the mission an important part of their family history as their ancestors had been part of the Mormon Battalion. In the last days of the Mormon Battalion, several soldiers were stationed at the mission to restore order and fill garrison duties.

By the end of the morning the overrun pathways were cleared, the aqueducts that once brought water to the lavanderia were again clearly visible, and the grounds were clear and fitting for the lush history that resides in the historic sunken garden.

“Working together as a community is extremely significant,” Jim Wood, mayor of Oceanside, California, said. “I am pleased by the amazing interfaith service and very proud that the local military have come to lend a helping hand at the project too. This project represents our entire city.”

Stop Hunger Now

In Aliso Viejo, California, over 600 members of the community gathered to sort, prep and pack more than 85,000 nutritious meals to be sent to school feeding programs in 65 countries around the world. The local chapter of Stop Hunger Now, a national organization devoted to ending world hunger, organized the event, which was hosted by the Laguna Niguel Stake.

Church and community members raised over $25,000 dollars to fund the components of the meals that were packaged. Each meal costs 29 cents to develop, apart from the volunteer labor to assemble and pack for shipment. The project’s goal was to package at least 75,000 and surpassed the goal by more than 10,000 meals. It took the volunteers under four hours to package all of the meals.

"The quality of and blessings received from JustServe Helping Hands projects have grown every year,” said Bill Marble, chairman of the North America West JustServe Helping Hands Committee. “These projects have been instrumental in improving important community resources and in building positive relationships with many other community groups and volunteers. Most of all, they have been an expression of our love for the Savior and for our neighbors."

Article drawn from reports by Rebecca Bennion, North America West JustServe Helping Hands Committee; Keith Gemmell, Carlsbad Stake Public Affairs Media Director; and Kristen Kamerman, Laguna Niguel Stake Public Affairs Specialist.

vjohnson@deseretnews.com

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