“Scatter Sunshine,” Ensign, Oct. 2008, 24–28
Are you looking for service opportunities but don’t know what to do or where to begin? These members share how they and others have served in their communities.
Sometimes service can be done in quiet and simple ways. My friend purchases unstained baby blankets at yard sales, washes them, and donates them to charity. Another friend gives the extra items from her buy-one-get-one-free coupons to the sisters on her visiting teaching route or to families with children. Another sister has gorgeous rose bushes and shares a vase of them with the sisters in the ward during the summer. A young woman in high school started a knitting club with some of her friends. They made leprosy bandages to send to third-world countries. Some dads coach their children’s sporting activities; not only do they spend time with their children, but they also support the community.
You don’t have to do something big for service to count. After all, it’s “by small and simple things [that] great things [are] brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).
Karen Kevan, Oregon
When I became a teacher in an elementary school, I told the principal if we ever had volunteers wanting to serve us, I would be happy to find a place for them. I would meet with them and match their availability and interests with our school’s needs. We’ve had volunteers play games with the children at recess, tutor in math or reading, help with fitness testing in physical education, help in the library, file papers for the nurse or the office manager, make copies and compile booklets, play chess, and work on art projects. This service is beneficial to both the students and the volunteers: the students perform better in school, and the volunteers receive the satisfaction of knowing that they helped bring about those improvements. It truly is a win-win situation.
Rojean Garnica, Washington
I had wanted to get involved in some sort of volunteer work for a long time, but as a young mother with preschool children, I found it hard to find the right type of service.
Through our stake I had learned to knit for a humanitarian aid project, so I decided to put that skill to use in our community. I called a local hospital that had a neonatal intensive care unit and inquired about whether they would accept knit hats and fleece blankets for the infants. They were delighted with the prospect, so now I make hats and blankets, and I can do it at home during my spare time.
Tricia Whitney, Wisconsin
I have always wanted to volunteer with literacy programs but have been restricted by severe hearing loss. However, with the approval of a local librarian, I wrote short reviews of library books I enjoyed reading. The library staff then forwarded the reviews to the local newspaper for publication. I selected books from many genres in order to offer people a wide variety from which to choose. Although I hope these reviews helped others choose reading material, this service probably helped me more than anyone else; it increased my comprehension and writing skills and broadened my interest in new areas of reading.
June Barrus, Utah
As a young mum with three small children I found it very difficult to serve in the community. But getting to know my neighbors has opened opportunities for me. Once they know me, they feel comfortable asking me for help in a variety of situations. They have also been of service to our family in times of need. Sometimes we look too far for service opportunities, especially when they are right on our back step.
Kylie Barnes, South Australia, Australia
While completing my community health rotation as a student nurse for the local health district, I visited new moms in their homes. Many of the mothers have low incomes and few resources. Most of them are teen mothers, some as young as 14. Seeing these mothers struggle helped me realize that little things can mean so much. In some cases, families might be able to donate items their children no longer use. In other instances, someone might share a meal or even something less tangible. A crib can provide a safe sleeping alternative. A car seat can mean the difference between a safe or dangerous ride. A little bit of food can feed a small family. A listening ear can provide understanding in a difficult situation. Words of encouragement can provide hope and courage to carry on.
Helping others doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming to be meaningful or ease a burden. Try starting small. Little things can make a big difference, especially to someone who has no one to rely on.
Nancy Andruk Olson, Nevada
As a teenager I began my community service by donating blood through my local hospital. It became harder to donate after I got married and had children. However, I found I could still fit in three donations a year. It just took some planning and sacrifice.
After my children were grown, I was unable to donate blood due to a new medication I was taking. I lost that satisfying feeling of serving my community and sensed that something important was missing in my life. I began to pray for a way to serve again.
One day as I read the newspaper, I noticed a small article about the American Red Cross needing volunteers. I was so excited! I called the number and was greeted enthusiastically. I turned in the necessary paperwork, and then a few weeks later received on-the-job training—all of which was done at my convenience. When it came time for me to schedule my shift each week, the Red Cross staff and I juggled days and times until we found three hours that fit perfectly in our schedules.
I helped by greeting blood donors, putting out cookies, pouring juice, and cleaning up. I also thanked the donors for the wonderful service they provided the people in their community. And I thank my Heavenly Father for the answer to my prayer and for the blessing of community service.
Debbie Pettey, Washington
My wife and I go to the Utah State Prison twice weekly to help with a literacy program sponsored by a local school district. We work with students and tutors from among the inmates. Many inmates are happy they can more accurately write job applications. Because the program emphasizes giving positive feedback when the participants show good effort and progress, some have felt more self-worth and hope for the future. One participant who was recently released from prison excitedly told me that he hoped to find a job like mine, where he too could be edified through helping others.
Stephen T. Case, Utah
My husband and I learned about a volunteer program at a nursing home in our neighborhood. Now I enjoy visiting with the ladies there weekly. Our toddler brings great delight to them. They love to see her growth and progress from week to week and enjoy cuddles and chats with her. When my husband comes, he plays the harp for them. We stay for only an hour or so, but that small amount of time with these women is so rewarding!
Kerryn Hugo, Queensland, Australia