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Oklahoma Latter-day Saints Strengthen Community Relationships Through Service

JustServe volunteers and members of the Church take part in several service projects to help those in need

Members of the Bartlesville Oklahoma Stake harvest vegetables at Osage Nation Harvest Land in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, on September 11, 2023. Photo by Stephen Southward, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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By Mary Richards, Church News

Throughout September, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the U.S. state of Oklahoma worked to help others by taking part in service projects through JustServe, a community service online platform where organizations post their volunteer needs.

The volunteers and Church members gathered food for those in need, planted trees and harvested vegetables.

Broken Arrow Food Drive

The Broken Arrow Oklahoma Stake did a food drive for Broken Arrow Neighbors and Wagoner Neighbors — two community resource centers that serve people in need in the cities of Broken Arrow, Coweta and Wagoner.

September was Hunger Action Month, and one in five Oklahomans are “food insecure” meaning, they do not know where or when their next meal will be.

Isaac Wright and Jace Eddy carry boxes of pasta into the meetinghouse for a food drive in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on September 10, 2023. JustServe volunteers and members of the Broken Arrow Oklahoma Stake donated food for the Broken Arrow Neighbors organization. Photo by Priscilla Eddy, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Broken Arrow Neighbors provided a list of needed food items, and the stake asked each ward to provide a certain number of items from the list. The wards also prepared flyers to distribute in neighborhoods and contacted a local grocery store for additional donations.

They invited their neighbors to join in the food drive as well.

Cindy Sayre, Jennie Jones and Stephanie Updike organize food donations for the Broken Arrow Neighbors organization in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on September 14, 2023. Photo by Aleta Jensen, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“We were neighbors helping neighbors,” said Jennie Jones, the stake’s communication director. “There were some hard times, but we definitely saw the hand of the Lord in the small things. These resulted in tremendous triumphs fostering gratitude and unity in our communities.”

To raise awareness to the plight of hunger in the community, Broken Arrow Neighbors sponsored a day of relay races on September 14. The stake delivered their donated food items to the charity just before the relay games started, then many members stayed to cheer on the participating teams.

The stake had 107 volunteers give about 268 hours of service. Their goal was 1,200 items or close to two pallets of food, but they doubled it and delivered 2,511 items or four pallets of food.

Jones told Broken Arrow Neighbors executive director Megan Quickle that the stake volunteers needed more containers for all the food they brought as they had exceeded their goal. In fact, Jones said “the items seemed to increase in number on the way there.”

Quickle responded that she knew the Lord was involved in their efforts. The two women also said to each other, “We work better together than apart.”

The stake also exceeded their goal for Wagoner Area Neighbors and delivered 400 items of food.

As the relationship builds, the stake hopes to work with the organizations to teach self-reliance classes through the Church’s Life Help courses and other resources.

“From planning, gathering, distributing and cheering, together, we can make a difference,” Jones said.

Bartlesville Tree Planting and Harvesting

When JustServe specialists in the Bartlesville Oklahoma Stake were looking at projects to do for the 9/11 National Day of Service, they felt strongly about a certain tree planting project with the United Way.

The project involved planting 20 maple trees along a parkway in Bartlesville. Volunteers mixed compost, planed, lined, mulched and staked the trees on September 9.

Then they found out that the trees for the project were donated by a foundation named “Play for Burk,” which was created in memory of Burk Hansen, a young man from the stake who died in 2015.

This was very touching for those involved, and the local United Way director said the connection must have been orchestrated by a higher power, wrote Stephen Southward, who serves in a communications role for the Church in the area.

A second project on September 11 took place at Osage Nation Harvest Land in Pawhuska. JustServe volunteers and stake members worked in the 40,000 square foot greenhouse, harvesting cucumbers to distribute to tribal families.

The Osage Nation began the farm during the COVID-19 pandemic to increase food production and to provide locally-grown produce year round to the Osage people in the hopes of combating obesity and diabetes.

This collaboration marked the second year of partnership between the Bartlesville Stake and the Osage Nation. The tribe faced a plant disease outbreak earlier this year, resulting in the loss of their entire greenhouse crop. The Church provided food shipments to help feed those in need.

Between the two service projects, the Bartlesville Stake had more than 60 volunteers each dedicating 2 12 hours to their projects.

Southward said that the stake’s collective commitment showcased the power of unity and community service.

“This event demonstrated the miracles that can happen when communities come together, making it a heartwarming and remarkable experience for all involved,” Southward said.

Members of the Bartlesville Oklahoma Stake harvest vegetables in the greenhouse at Osage Nation Harvest Land in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, September 11, 2023. The project was part of the 9/11 National Day of Service. Photo by Stephen Southward, courtesy of Church News.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

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