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Youth Join JustServe Efforts Around North Texas With Cleanup Projects, Donations and More

Service efforts in North Texas include helping food pantries, gardens and cemeteries

Youth in the Prosper Texas Stake show some of the handwritten cards of encouragement they made for a JustServe project on March 9, 2024. Photo by Angela Loertscher, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

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By Mary Richards, Church News

JustServe youth volunteers from the Prosper Texas Stake spent Saturday, March 9, in a service project for other youth in their community who needed some cheer.

Throughout the evening, the volunteers made handwritten notes of kindness, encouragement and motivation that the RefreshNTX nonprofit organization then distributed to youth in need.

RefreshNTX gathers and distributes full-sized personal hygiene products for children and teens at 95 schools in Frisco, Little Elm and Denton, all in the northern part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.

Volunteer Brooks Campbell said there have been times when he has needed encouragement and said he felt “a sense of light” as he created cards of motivation and kindness for other people.

Abby Martino said it was her first project with JustServe — a website and app created to help volunteers find service projects around them and for nonprofit organizations to list their needs.

“I was just glad I could do something uplifting. We would write messages [on the cards] to strengthen the kids, like ‘you are loved’ and ‘you have purpose.’”

The worldwide JustServe Instagram account featured the teens’ efforts with a post saying, “‘You have purpose’ is a message everyone needs to hear. Thank you to these incredible volunteers for taking time to uplift kids in their community.”

Youth in the Prosper Texas Stake make handwritten cards of encouragement for a JustServe project on March 9, 2024. Photo by Angela Loertscher, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

The month before, on a chilly Saturday, youth from the Burleson Texas Stake completed over 100 hours of service at the Russell Farm Art Center.

The youth in the Fort Worth suburb try to do at least three big service projects a year, explained stake Young Women President Emily Jackson. These honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, World Youth Service Day in April and the 9/11 National Day of Service.

Jackson said the stake has a great relationship with the center, and they reported a need for work to be done in the community garden. The youth spent time weeding, overturning ground, bringing in and spreading fresh soil and beautifying the community garden area.

Youth in the Burleson Texas Stake clean up a community garden at the Russell Farm Art Center in Burleson, Texas, on February 17, 2024. Photo by Emily Jackson, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“Despite the frosty grip of winter, we still had over 50 volunteers,” she said. “It fills my spirit with gratitude to witness our youth, touched by the divine spark of service, embracing their role as disciples of Christ. This service project was the perfect opportunity to warm both our fingers and our hearts.”

Hannah Walsh from the Joshua Ward said: “The service project was super fun. It was nice to serve my community while hanging out with friends. I think service is important because it is one of the closest acts of being like Christ.”

Mitchell Mickelson from the Burleson 1st Ward said: “I think the service project was a great success because even though we may not know everybody, we were working towards the same goal. It shows that when people have common goals, we can get along.”

Youth in the Burleson Texas Stake clean up a community garden at the Russell Farm Art Center in Burleson, Texas, on February 17, 2024. Photo by Emily Jackson, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Burleson Texas Stake Service Projects

On Saturday, February 17, missionaries and members of the Burleson Texas Stake held their second annual vineyard service project at the Travis Vineyard in the city of Cleburne, which is south of Fort Worth.

Anna Moreira, Relief Society president from the Centennial Ward, said, “In 2023 we were studying the New Testament [for ‘Come, Follow Me’], and I was impressed that it would be great if our Relief Society sisters had the experience of working in an actual vineyard to help magnify what we would be studying that year.”

Then, this year, the discussion of working in a vineyard came up in the Book of Mormon as taught by the prophet Jacob. Members and friends of the stake again gathered to prune and clean grape vines — a task that is getting more difficult as the vineyard owner advances in age.

Missionaries and members of the Burleson Texas Stake help prune a vineyard in Cleburne, Texas, on February 17, 2024. Photo by Roque Moreira, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

“We may never know how the Holy Ghost used our little activity to teach lessons or touch hearts, but I saw strangers working side by side and connecting, siblings cheering one another on, and fathers and sons working and talking together,” Moreira said. “I am grateful for this small opportunity to witness the Lord’s hand in strengthening familial bonds and friendships.”

On February 24, members of the Burleson stake gathered with members of two other faiths, as well as residents and employees of the city of Alvarado, east of Cleburne, for a morning of community service.

The volunteers — including many young children — met at the Balch and Balch-Senterwood cemeteries to clean headstones and remove debris. Many of the graves date to before the Civil War.

More than 100 volunteers scrubbed dirt and algae from headstones, raked leaves, trimmed weeds and removed debris.

JustServe volunteers, including members of the Burleson Texas Stake and of other faiths, join in a project to beautify cemeteries in Alvarado, Texas, on February 24, 2024. Photo by Roque Moreira, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
A volunteer scrubs a headstone at a cemetery in Alvarado, Texas, on February 24, 2024. Photo by Roque Moreira, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Stake volunteers compared headstones to FamilySearch records and found missing information to complete records. Many residents expressed gratitude for providing a needed service. City staff hope to make this a regular event and requested assistance with a possible family history class for the community.

Other Efforts Around North Texas

Members of the Richardson Texas Stake signed up on JustServe to help with a shoe drive for Sharp Shoes Charity. JustServe volunteers in Richardson, Garland, Wylie and Sachse, which are northeast of Dallas, donated several bags of shoes to benefit individuals in need.

JustServe volunteers from Fort Worth recently sponsored a local food drive to benefit the local nonprofit Community Link. The volunteers posted about the food drive in their neighborhoods and set out collection boxes at their homes and in the foyers of their church building. These efforts resulted in 557 pounds of food and toiletries donated.

JustServe volunteers in Rhome, which is northwest of Fort Worth, and Fairview, northeast of Dallas, did a food drive in January as well, sending 97 pounds of food to the Justin Community Food Pantry. And young women in Rhome took donated supplies and assembled bathroom and hygiene kits for refugee families.

Youth from Sachse, northeast of Dallas, served at 5 Loaves Food Pantry in March — making boxes and snack bags to be distributed the next day.

Women in Prosper took time during a women’s conference in April to do a JustServe project in which they gathered donations for Neighbors Nourishing Neighbors, a local food pantry in the community north of Dallas. The women contributed canned goods, pantry basics and hygiene items to supplement the pantry’s inventory.

The month before that, volunteers around Prosper gathered to meet the needs of two local nonprofits focused on children in surrounding communities, Lovepacs PCG and CASA of Collin County.

Women donated fabric and sewed 30 pillowcases for foster care children while also collecting nearly 100 boxes of cereal to be shared with families experiencing food insecurity. Meanwhile, the Walnut Grove High School tennis team shopped for and donated 31 cereal boxes and 868 packets of oatmeal.

The pillowcases will be given to foster care children, and the cereal and oatmeal will go to children who need food during school breaks.

Wendy Osburn from the Prosper 1st Ward shared her feelings about serving together: “It is always wonderful to be able to share talents while serving our Heavenly Father’s children who are in need. It warms my soul.”

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