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Elder Jack Gerard, left, West Virginia governor's office representative Waylon Bryant, Paul Reagan representing Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia's office, Mark Byrd from Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley's office, DC mayoral representative Jeffrey Richardson, LDS public affairs directors Laurie Turner and Anne Golightly at the Nationals baseball game that kicked off Day to Serve events.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — More than 1,300 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Washington, D.C., area, including over 400 full-time missionaries and many of their investigators, attended a Washington Nationals baseball game to kick off this year’s regional Day to Serve, a large-scale service event started by the church in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

Elder Jack N. Gerard, an Area Seventy, founded Day to Service in 2011 after President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, asked LDS Church members worldwide to participate in a day of service to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the LDS Church's welfare program. Elder Gerard later asked the governors of Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and the mayor of Washington, D.C., to issue proclamations encouraging all residents, community and government organizations, and interfaith groups to work together to serve in this vast swath of the country.

"They all quickly saw the value of service and the benefits of people putting aside their political, faith and cultural differences, and uniting to make a difference in our communities," Elder Gerard said. "The results of these have literally been astounding, prompting thousands of people to volunteer and work together. Last year there were over 40,000 volunteers that joined forces on Day to Serve events.”

The Washington Nationals teamed up with Harris Teeter, an area grocery store chain, for a food drive, and Day to Serve took advantage of the opportunity to invite Day to Serve supporters to assist with this collection effort. The Nats collected 3,452 pounds of food at this event to help feed the 50,000 children, seniors and families that struggle with having enough food in the DC metro area each year.

LDS Church members joined thousands of others and filed into Nats stadium with armloads of food to help fill the shelves at the Capital Area Food Bank, another partner of Day to Serve. Over the years, the church has generously donated large truckloads of food to CAFB.

From the Nationals Park field, Elder Gerard presented “service hero” awards to the representatives attending the game for Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, Maryland Go. Martin O’Malley, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray.

These leaders were recognized for bringing tens of thousands of volunteers together annually to feed the hungry and serve those in need. Elder Gerard said, “We thank them for their dedication and vision and honor them as service heroes. We invite everyone to join us and get involved in this year’s Day to Serve by choosing a day to serve between Sept. 11 and Sept. 28.

Paul Reagan, chief of staff for Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, said, “Day to Serve is a credit to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the many other faith groups that make it happen every year.”

Elder L. Tom Perry and Elder M. Russell Ballard, members of the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve, prepared a video encouraging church members in the D.C. area to invite their neighbors and make this year’s Day to Serve even more successful than those in the past.

Elder Ballard said, “It’s a wonderful thing to get together to serve. We commend all those who are willing to get in, reach out and touch and bless the lives of many of our Heavenly Father’s children.”

Elder Perry said, “That’s the way this great nation was made — one generation contributing to the next. And that’s what we must all do. The spirit will accompany you in this work and you will bring a greater love of our Lord and Savior to all the people you serve with and all those you serve.

For more information, see daytoserve.org.

Laurie Snow Turner is a writer and an LDS public affairs director in the Washington, D.C., area. She blogs at lauriesnowturner.com.