I often see pictures of service projects, especially in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, with masses of LDS volunteers wearing those yellow shirts that say “Mormon Helping Hands.” I’ve long had sort of a vague sense of envy when I see those pictures. It seems as though those folks are doing important work, and yet having a genuinely good time while they do it.
My chance was finally coming. Our stake had designated July 24th as our annual day of service. We had the yellow shirts and vests at the ready, and each unit grouped by building had planned a service project for the day.
Our building’s project involved cleaning up a local forest preserve. Unfortunately, there were massive thunderstorms overnight into the morning, and the project had to be cancelled. Rats!
But the Arlington Heights units in our stake managed to pull their project off. (When I first moved to Chicago I attended church at that building.) Their project involved lending a hand at the Crabtree Nature Center in the northwest corner of Cook County. As part of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, the Crabtree Nature Center has slowly been returning to its natural state, through both the natural process and Forest Preserve management.
Mormon Helping Hands volunteers were available to help management with trail improvement and clearing of growth invasive to the natural prairie. More than 60 members of the Arlington Heights First and Second wards came out to move mulch over slick, muddy trails and to clear plants that potentially could overcome the natural prairie. Under the direction of the Forest Preserve Management, within a 3-hour timeframe, a large pile of mulch was spread over an entire trail and many stems of the invasive white sweet clover were removed from the natural prairie. A morning that began with storms ended with a much improved prairie and trail.
What have your experiences been with service projects under the “Mormon Helping Hands” rubric?