News Story

JustServe — the Catalyst for Two Alberta Service Projects

JustServe, an online app connecting volunteers and community organizations, was the perfect tool to help the Lethbridge Alberta Young Single Adult Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when they hosted Elder Lynn G. Robbins, a General Authority Seventy, for their October 2021 stake conference.

Elder Robbins requested a service project be organized prior to the conference so he could work alongside the conference attendees. But COVID-19 restrictions made organizing a service project for over 100 young single adults nearly impossible.

Chris Anderson, the stake Young Single Adult communication director, began reaching out to agencies in Lethbridge to determine if there were any needs that could be met.

Anderson said, “It seemed the only consistent response to our offer of service was that there were definite needs and there were expressions of gratitude for our willingness, but agencies were limiting the number of participants [because of COVID-19 restrictions]. I trusted the Lord would open a way for us to accomplish His will.”

Anderson decided to look for service projects through the JustServe app. On the app, organizations may post their needs and volunteers may search for places to serve in the community, providing opportunities to help those in need and enhance the quality of life in the community.

Through JustServe, Anderson noted that St. Martha’s Retreat, a former home for Catholic nuns, needed volunteers to do indoor and outdoor work. Daren Heyland, the area communication director, had worked with St. Martha’s Retreat before and was able to co-ordinate communication with the manager.

The project could only accommodate 14 individuals, not enough to match the 100 volunteers the organizers were anticipating. But it felt like God had placed this opportunity in their path, so they made a commitment to send the needed individuals and continued to look for an additional project.

Anderson said, “Using the JustServe website has [previously] given individuals and groups in the Lethbridge Alberta Young Single Adult Stake opportunities to connect with service projects in the city. Those include meal preparation and serving at the local soup kitchen, stocking shelves at the food banks and connecting with those who are new to the city and learning conversational English skills.” Unfortunately, because of the large number of volunteers expected for this one-time project and the current health restrictions, many traditional projects were not feasible.

Several more days of research on JustServe led to another service opportunity, “Shoreline Cleanup.” This project would focus on revitalizing a river bottom where many residents enjoy fishing, biking and walks along the shore. The area of this project happened to be just below St. Martha’s Retreat, allowing the volunteers to stay somewhat connected, so the group committed to carry out both projects.

One hundred twenty young single adults and leaders came together on a Saturday morning in October to serve their community.

At St. Martha’s Retreat, volunteers oiled and cleaned the interior wood panelling, doors and picture frames. One of St. Martha’s Retreat’s regular volunteers was surprised when the other volunteers began to sing hymns. She remarked that she had experienced a very difficult week, and the music and kindness of the young single adults had lifted her from her discouragement.

The program leader of St. Martha’s Retreat was eager to take volunteers on a tour of the facility, so Elder Robbins and President Eric Wilde, president of the Lethbridge Alberta Young Single Adult Stake, along with a few other individuals, learned the history and purpose of the retreat. Wilde noted that “partnering with St. Martha’s Retreat and serving in the community led to a feeling of more unity and open hearts.”

The JustServe website notes that “our individual efforts don't need to be huge — a little bit of change here, a few hours there — but even small efforts quickly add up to make a real difference. As we work side-by-side and learn from each other, mutual understanding increases, misconceptions can be corrected and new friendships are built.”

Outside, volunteers gathered fallen tree branches and debris to create a habitat for the native animals that frequent the retreat grounds, including deer, badgers, squirrels and many varieties of birds. The volunteers also moved benches to locations where visitors could enjoy the view of the river valley below and the peaceful and calming landscape of the prominent city cemetery to the south.

At the river bottom, the volunteers spread out along a one-kilometre stretch. They worked in groups of four, documenting the items found and filling bags of trash. Nearby residents showed interest in the volunteers and expressed gratitude for the care they were giving to protect and clean up the environment.

The JustServe app proved to be a wonderful tool to help volunteers in Lethbridge connect with community organizations. The JustServe website states, “[We] may not solve world hunger, … but we’re convinced that by serving with each other in our local communities, we’re paving the way for much broader changes.”

French Story

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