Mormons in Temecula, California spent a Saturday in the spring of 2013 sprucing up their local community. This is an annual event for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is part of the popular Mormon Helping Hands program. The program encompasses both emergency cleanup after disasters and also scheduled service projects that simply give back to the communities in which they live and worship.
Mormons Serve Temecula
The Temecula event took place at a variety of locations and non-Mormons were invited to join the efforts. One group worked to get Chaparral High School in shape following extensive budget cuts. Volunteers worked with the school’s principal to clean up the grounds for their upcoming graduation and were told the school had never looked nicer.
At the same time, other volunteers headed for Jacob’s House, a spiritual organization that serves as a hospitality house for families whose loved ones are in the nearby hospital. They were preparing for their upcoming open house and Mormon Helping Hands volunteers joined with other community volunteers to fix up the yard and gardens and to organize and clean the building. Read more
April 26, 2013 was one of the first really beautiful days of spring. Most people scheduled a day of playing, but nearly 5,300 volunteers Pennsylvania, Delaware, and portions of Maryland, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia chose to spend their Saturday at just under fifty state and local parks across the region to do repairs, clean-up, and improvements. The project was organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of their Mormon Helping Hands program. Both states issued proclamations honoring Saturday in the Park events. More than 115 Mormon congregations were involved and they invited members of other faith groups and Scouting organizations to join them. Nearly 18,000 service hours were logged in, saving state and local governments thousands of dollars. Mormons initiated the project and began planning in November.
National Parks Week
Pennsylvania’s governor declared, “’Saturday in the Parks’ was created to recognize the crucial role that volunteers play in the maintenance and preservation of state and local parks throughout the Commonwealth.’” He commended those organizing the event, which is open to all volunteers, not just the Mormons who organized it and hoped it would encourage others to do similar events.
In Delaware, Mormons joined with Delaware Council of Faith-Based Partnership and Delaware State Parks to create events in conjunction with Delaware’s annual Week of Service.
Mormon is a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The parks initiative is part of the Mormon Helping Hands program, a grassroots program begun in 1998 that sends Mormons into their communities to do service projects on a regular basis and to help in clean-up efforts during emergencies. Volunteers wear yellow vests to help organizers keep track of the hundreds that typically show up for such events. Read more
In places such as New York there still remains remnants of the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Sandy which struck the northeastern seaboard of the United States in late October 2012. After that major storm many people were left without clothing, daily provisions, power, shelter, and even some were left completely homeless with nowhere to turn for assistance. Even government assistance for the victims of the storm was slow coming leaving many of the victims feeling alone and helpless.
Some hope was restored to the local communities when hundreds of volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, known as Mormon Helping Hands, arrived on the scene to render aid and assistance in any way possible. These men and women willingly gave of their time and abilities to help those in need at a desperate hour. It did not matter to them whether those they were helping were members of The Church of Jesus Christ or not. They simply saw a need and went to work doing whatever they could to restore some sense of normalcy to communities that had otherwise been left desolate. Even now, almost three months after the storm, Mormon Helping Hands are still giving service in whatever areas help is needed. To date more than 28,000 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers have given of their time, totaling over 275,000 hours.
“I can’t thank all the volunteers enough for all the amazing help my family received!” wrote Kelly-Ann Mcmullan-Preiss of Belle Harbor, New York, on the New York Metro Mormon Helping Hands Facebook page. “You will all be forever in our hearts!” 
Thousands of boxes of food were given to the Red Cross, and the Church donated $50,000 to the American Red Cross of Greater New York. In addition, nine semi-trucks full of cleaning supplies, including shovels, generators and water pumps, were sent to a central support center in Emerson, New Jersey, and 10 truckloads of blanket and clothing donations have been distributed throughout the region. 
Church volunteers also worked closely with the American Red Cross to assist in providing shelters. “The Red Cross calls us pretty readily; we’re at their beck and call, whenever we can help,” Mark Hardman, a local leader in the area said. Members have been helping with both the set-up and running of shelters, as well as contributing supplies when needed. 
In Brooklyn, members gathered 500 cleanup kits consisting of bleach, garbage bags, goggles, brushes and other similar items for residents to use once larger projects were completed. Missionaries, Church members and Catholic Charities volunteers in the area worked together to get a Catholic church in Red Hook back up and running as a community outreach center so that assistance could be provided for residents in those local communities. “The place was just hopping,” Jeff Nelson, a local leader said. “It became a center to provide for the needs of that area. Our work with Catholic Charities has an exponential effect.” 
The Church also provided six trucks of winter clothing from drives conducted to residents in the area. Items were distributed to 500 children near a local elementary school that was so damaged by the storm it will likely be demolished.
During the initial six-week-long cleanup effort, volunteers traveled from as far as Canada, Boston, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Virginia. Thousands of volunteers from neighboring states even spent the night in local Mormon church buildings over the Thanksgiving weekend in order to be nearby to assist with recovery efforts. Elder Donald L. Hallstrom of the Presidency of the Seventy visited the affected regions in New York and New Jersey in December to meet with residents and to personally thank the volunteers. And Mormon missionaries helped bring the Christmas spirit to hard-hit communities with a series of musical firesides in New Jersey, Staten Island and the Rockaways.
And the efforts to help clean up will continue in New York, New Jersey, and areas of Pennsylvania as long as the help is needed. Volunteers wearing yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests and shirts have been dubbed by some community members they have helped as “the Little Yellow Army of Happiness.” 
The Baltimore Maryland Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 9more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church) collected clothes, coats, shoes and blankets for victims of Sandy in New Jersey and New York. Local leader Craig Halsey asked members to bring items to church on Sunday, 4 November and encouraged them to enlist neighbors and friends to do the same. Over 400 boxes of clothing was collected, and some 250 volunteers were enlisted to help. The winter clothing was delivered to victims the following Tuesday. Church members near Washington, D.C., also organized a winter clothing and supply drive. The effort included members and their neighbors in Annandale, Ashburn, McLean, Mount Vernon and Oakton, Virginia; Suitland and Seneca, Maryland; and Washington, D.C.
“It is truly a coordinated effort and one of the best I’ve seen in over a decade of volunteer work with the Red Cross,” said Shelli Dunn, an American Red Cross shelter manager. “I’ve worked many emergencies from Katrina to Irene, and it’s always incredible to see how communities come together to provide for others.” 
More than 2000 people showed up at a service project organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes called Mormons, to clean up after a fire near Pocatello, Idaho. The fire started on June 28, 2012, and burned 66 homes. The Mormons were joined by volunteers of many different faiths, although Mormons made up the majority of the workers. More than 14,000 volunteer hours were logged during the day-long project.
The Church provided chain saws, fuel for the chain saws, gloves, safety glasses, shovels, bottled water and food in addition to the volunteers and expertise that comes from many years of church humanitarian response. Pocatello Police Department, Bannock County Sheriff and Search and Rescue and the Bannock County Planning and Zoning also provided equipment and expertise. The project was an impressive example of what can be done when the government and the community come together to solve a serious problem. The Mormons wore the traditional yellow vests that identified them as members of Helping Hands, a church-wide informal group that springs up wherever the need arises.
Mormons from nineteen stakes showed up to help. A stake is similar to a Catholic diocese. They are all volunteers who just wanted to spread the word that people cared. They worked throughout the day, divided into groups of five. People who needed help had signed up and specified what they needed. Volunteers were then assigned to a project based on the number of people and the skills needed. 57 of the people impacted by the fire requested help. The city provided free passes to the city landfill for the homeowners and volunteers were able to use this. They hauled 400 tons of materials to the landfill that day, clearing the properties so rebuilding could begin. The Idaho Division of Environmental Quality provided instruction sheets to volunteers on the safest and most effective ways to remove debris, take down damaged trees, and carry out other tasks so as to minimize impact on the environment and to protect safety.
Homeowners were touched that so many strangers showed up to help them at a time when they were feeling alone and frightened. Some said it showed them there were people who cared about their trial.
The clean-up is expected to continue through August and volunteers are able to sign up online to assist.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, sometimes mistakenly called the “Mormon Church,” are well-known for their volunteerism, giving both service and funds in their church and their communities. In early 2012 the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released findings associated with a comprehensive study of Mormons. The focus was Mormon volunteerism, which was found to be far and beyond what most Americans, even very religious Americans give in terms of time and money.
An event was scheduled along with the release of the results of the study, called Mormons and Civic Life (read the transcript here), in which the results were discussed by those who mounted the study, scholars, members of the press, and others.
The findings of the study showed that while about 30% to 50% of Americans volunteer, they do it for about three to four hours a month. Studies by the Corporation for National and Community Service show that Utah has the highest rate of volunteering. Utah is the American state with the most Mormons. The Pew study (using a 14 page, very detailed questionnaire) showed that Mormons do much more on a monthly basis.
For religious activities, people give on average 242 hours. For church-affiliated volunteering to help meet social needs of people in the church, 96 hours. For church-affiliated activities helping people outside the church, 56 hours. And for activities outside of the church totally, 34 hours.
If we take the value of the hours volunteering for an average member of the Latter-day Saints, it’s about $9,140 annually. This is a major, major contribution.
When analyzing the giving habits of Mormons the Pew study divided “giving” into three types — secular giving (outside the Church), giving as tithing (10% of one’s increase), and giving to the Church over and beyond tithing.
For secular giving, meaning giving money to worthy causes outside of the church, an average person in the church gives $1,171. Giving to welfare through the church — $650. And on top of tithing — $203 per person for religious activities.
The first thing that I said about tithing — 88.8% of members of the church that we interviewed reported that they provide full tithing. Remember, we went to the church; people that we interviewed were active members of the church. They went to a Sunday service, and this is where we found them. Another about 6% said that they do partial tithing. The total social donation — I’m excluding now the religious donation outside — if we only take what they gave for social causes within the church and outside the church, we have $1,821.
To conclude, we found a group of people that are most generous in our society. Through their theology of obedience and sacrifice and strong commitment to tithing and service, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints are the most pro-social members in American society. We couldn’t believe the findings. But that’s what we have.
Discussed at the event was the remarkable fact that Mormons show up after every major disaster, ready to provide relief; that Mormons believe in preparedness and self-reliance; that there is a social structure within each congregation that binds members together and encourages them to provide more service. Most Mormons interviewed said that taking care of the poor and needy is a very important aspect of their faith.
An organization called Family Humanitarian Experience (Fhe) is serving hundreds of remote Q’eqchi’ villagers in the remote Polochic Valley of Guatemala and doing it right alongside their spouses and children.
FHe is a new 501(c)3 non-profit organization geared for LDS families who want to serve together and have spiritually uplifting experiences along the way. At the core of an FHe expedition are the training workshops which provide skills and knowledge to villages in the areas of medical and dental, economic development, and teacher training. There are also building projects and numerous cultural experiences that take place. 
Last summer seven FHe leaders joined with Singular Humanitarian and CHOICE Humanitarian to lay the groundwork for FHe’s expedition this July to Guatemala. CHOICE Humanitarian is a distinguished non-profit organization based in Salt Lake City with over 30 years of experience in sustainable village development. SHe is a sister organization to FHe for LDS single professionals that develops and provides curriculum and hands-on training to villages around the world in much the same way as FHe, focusing on the areas of business, healthcare, and education.
In July 2011 FHe and SHe worked together to train local volunteers to provide aid in Guatemalan villages. Aid includes the building of a hospital, enabling teachers to provide education, and health workers to provide care and instruction on sanitation and hygiene.
Families who serve with FHe will go home with deeper gratitude, a deeper love of mankind and for each other, and with the desire to not take anything for granted, especially relationships. This is the gift the Q’eqchi’ people give to us, the ability to love and live more deeply.”
FHe recently launched their website, www.familyhumanitarian.org, and will be closing registration soon for their expedition to Guatemala in early July 2012.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently called by friends of other faiths, the “Mormon Church”) is working together with other organizations, to assist in drought relief efforts in Africa. Millions are in need of assistance as the past several years have been harsh drought conditions. The Church partnering to provide water, hygiene kits, medical supplies, as well as medical training. the Church is also working on projects in the future that would help the people of Africa be more self-reliant. These projects include digging wells, installing pumps, and sanitizing water. This example of assistance given by the Church and other organizations, shows that there is a great need for additional Christ like assistance around the world.
With an estimated 13 million people in Eastern Africa in need of assistance, the conditions there being the driest recorded in the past 50 years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working with various other organizations to coordinate the distribution of aid in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.
In Dadaab, Kenya, the world’s largest complex of refugee camps is already full, with an estimated half million people living there. Tens of thousands of people are living outside of the complex due to lack of space and supplies. In September, an average of 1,000 people arrived each day.
For a full report, please visit the official Mormon news website for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (“Mormons”)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormon Church), contributed to disaster relief in 58 countries during 2010. The Welfare Services Emergency Response Report shows that the LDS Church responded to 119 disasters and provided millions of dollars in emergency aid.
Disasters worldwide claimed the lives of nearly 300,000 people in 2010, making it the deadliest year in the last 25. There were about 350 natural disasters. Two hundred million people were affected, and disasters caused about $100 billion worth of damage.
Earthquakes took center stage with temblors in Haiti and Chile, and New Zealand. The Mormon Church continues to send relief to Haiti. The most widespread type of disaster globally was flooding. Pakistan, China, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as Central America and northern South America, suffered from devastating floods, as has the United States. There were two major cholera outbreaks, one in Haiti and one in Papua New Guinea.
The humanitarian aid efforts of the Mormon Church are made possible through the generous donations of members and friends of the Church. One hundred percent of all contributions are used to help those in need.
Travis Hansen, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, former Brigham Young University basketball star, former LDS missionary to Chile, played pro basketball for Real Madrid in Spain, and Dynamo Moscow and BC Khimki in Russia. While playing for Real Madrid last year, Hansen suffered a herniated disc in his back and returned to Utah for surgery and recovery. During this healing period, he and his wife LaRee finished a long adoption process and received their baby girl from Indiana. They were already familiar with the hurdles that line the road to adoption.
While in Russia in 2007, he and his wife felt inspired to establish the Little Heroes Foundation. LaRee had researched the adoption process in Russia, and she discovered the plight of many orphans there. They decided to do something to help children around the world, one by one. Hansen helped one Russian infant gain access to a liver transplant, while he and his wife were establishing Little Heroes. Now in its fourth year, Little Heroes, sponsored by Nature Sunshine, has offered humanitarian aid to children in Russia, Mali (Africa), Connecticut, Colorado and Utah.
The organization has remodeled part of a hospital in Russia. They have helped children get life-saving surgeries. They’ve organized volunteers to hold and play with babies. They have built two schools and pay extra teachers to be there. They provide books and materials for the schools. They work with a foster care program for the older children. Knowing they can’t provide for every needy child in the world, at least they can change the lives of a few.
Becky Douglas has turned a tragic event into a charitable project helping many in India. Becky’s oldest daughter, Amber, took her own life in college, ending a struggle with bi-polar disorder. When Becky was sorting through Amber’s possessions, she discovered that Amber had sponsored an orphan in India. She requested donations for the orphanage in lieu of flowers for Amber’s funeral. So much money was collected that Douglas was asked to serve on the orphanage’s board of directors. She decided she had better make a trip to India.
During the trip, Becky discovered that the orphanage was well-run and that the children were well cared for. However, her heart bled when she saw lepers begging in the streets. She discovered that people with leprosy are outcasts, and that their children also become untouchable, living in the leprosy colonies with their parents. She decided to do something. She called four close friends, and together they created Rising Star Outreach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving leprosy victims in India and their children.
Leprosy is curable and easily treated. India provides care for lepers. But many are too ashamed to seek help. They become outcasts and beggars. Becky decided on a three-pronged approach — 1- to provide mobile medical care for people living in the colonies; 2- to create a safe learning environment for the children of lepers; and 3- to offer micro-loans to lepers to wean them from begging into gainful work. The work is moving forward, thanks to volunteers from all over the world.
Because of Rising Star, lepers have access to clean bandages and medications. The mobile units also check for other diseases and conditions and seek to discover leprosy when it’s just begun, thus possibly preventing physical signs of the disease.
Rising Star gives colony kids a separate place to live and go to school, protecting them from the disease through separation and clean environs. At school they learn English and computer skills. There are nearly 200 children in Rising Star’s primary and secondary schools. Rising Star has partnered with people in India to help with the micro-loan program. Rising Star has been invited to open facilities in nearly every state in India. To date, the organization has helped around 20,000 people.
Rising Star can be contacted at risingstaroutreach.org.
To read the full article in LDS Living on Rising Star Outreach, click here.
LDS Living Magazine editor Jamie Lawson visited India and has written about the experience in three parts, including a video. You can see the articles at the following links: