SALT LAKE CITY — After Mary Jude Austin's husband died six years ago, she did her best to keep things together.
She stayed dedicated to her children, took on a full-time job and even managed a calling as a Relief Society president in her LDS Church ward. But the yard of her home on Westminster Avenue was too much.
"I couldn't keep up," she said. "It was hard for me because it was what my husband did. I'm not incapable, but I felt incapable. It was overwhelming."
Saturday morning, though, she was trimming flowers and plants along her driveway as several young adults hauled cement from her backyard. Volunteers from the Riverton Utah Young Single Adult Stake, they were just a handful of the estimated 750-plus who turned out to help with several projects in a day of service in Salt Lake City.
"I was scared the rain would scare them away, but they turned up in droves," stake leader Gaylen Briggs said. "It's just a reminder of how great the young people are I am overcome with emotion when I just think about what's being done here."
Briggs, first counselor in the Riverton Utah YSA Stake, said he was looking for a meaningful service project for those in the stake when his brother, a service missionary, mentioned that there were was plenty of work to do in the Salt Lake Wells Stake.
Briggs said contact was made with the stake president who was "delighted to have us serve" and met with the bishops of each ward in the stake to ask them to come up with projects for the young adults to take on. Each ward was then paired with a YSA ward, which was given a list of projects to divide up among the ward members.
"We identified the projects and said, you guys figure it out," Briggs said. "I didn't realize we could tackle projects of this magnitude, but we had so many young single adults come out of the woodwork (to volunteer their time and talents)."
Jordan Rigby and Jordin Giles of the Bluffdale YSA ward were asked to spearhead the task of putting in a driveway ramp from the road to the parking pad next to the home of Sabrina Felt and her family. Rigby said he and Giles drove to the home earlier in the week to survey the area and also checked with Blue Stakes utility notification center to make sure they weren't going to interfere with any power lines.
Saturday, Giles, Rigby and other volunteers from their ward tore up the curb and dug down 5-inches to prepare the area for new concrete. The young adults also assisted the Felts' neighbor, a tree cutter, with an added project, caused by a wind burst that left a tree lodged in the roof of the Felts' camping trailer.
"I love stuff like this," Jessica Barnett of the Bluffdale YSA ward, said as she shoveled. "I don't even mind (the rain). I thought it would be fun if it's rainy. It would be fun to get dirty and muddy."
She said it was "awesome" to drive down the streets surrounding the Felts' home and see other groups from the Riverton Utah YSA stake working as well.
"It's cool that people are kind and selfless and will come and do this on a Saturday," Barnett said. "Normally people will give service to people they know, but we don't know these people, we didn't know what they needed, we just knew they needed something and were happy and willing to help."
Bret Jenkins, who is on the high council of the Riverton Utah YSA stake, said some young adults began to serve weeks ago and that there are plans to develop the relationship between the stakes into "an ongoing relationship instead of a one time effort." He said there are just so many good people in need of service.
"We've done everything from repairing cars, to roofing, electrical work, plumbing, snow removal, cement driveway removal, new concrete and a lot of yard work," he said. "The point is that you can get a lot done — that many hands make light work. It's raining and we've still got close to 1,000 young adults who showed up. This will be ongoing for years."
Austin couldn't have been more pleased with the help she got in her yard, where the volunteers had removed a dog run and an area that had been covered with concrete. There were plans to add grass and a sprinkler system before the day's end.
"I am someone who doesn't like asking for anything," Austin said. "I can do, but I can't ask. But I felt this was something I should volunteer for. It would really help me. It really would."
She said she even tried taking her name off the list of those with projects to be done, telling herself that she was healthy and strong. She felt guilty, thinking of others who could also use the help.
She said when the volunteers came and asked her about the project and what she wanted done, she sobbed.
"'Whatever you can help me with is wonderful,'" she remembered saying. "I needed to feel like something was in control and felt my yard would help me feel in control again.
"This was kind of almost the last piece to get control of my life. It's going to be my little oasis."
Nicole Wahlin of the Riverton 1st YSA Ward said she didn't know until Friday that she would be working in Austin's yard, hauling broken pieces of concrete and tackling yard work. But she was glad she had signed on to help when she did.
"(Austin) is really excited and seeing how excited she is makes us really excited," Wahlin said. "I think it's really amazing to be part of it and see everything come together."
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