About 700 volunteers serve Northern Utahns in need at Living Christ service day

Monday , June 19, 2017 - 10:59 AM

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

HOOPER — When the Hooper Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints dedicated 2017 to memorizing “The Living Christ,” they decided to put their studies into action.

The document released by church leaders in 2000 is a scripture-based description of Jesus Christ’s character, as well as his impact on the world. A large part of that involved a dedication to serving others — a message that inspired the church to organize an event to help those in need.

On June 10, the stake hosted an event called the Living Christ Day of Service — an effort that ended up being much larger than expected, according organizers.

Leading up to the day of service, volunteers gathered supplies for two months on behalf of programs at Catholic Community Services of Northern Utah and Your Community Connection. About $16,000 in donations was gathered, and at the June 10 event, at least 675 volunteers spent more than 1,500 hours getting the items ready for their recipients. 

In total, the group assembled 725 “pantry packs” of food, 250 hygiene kits and 50 backpacks filled with school supplies. They also shipped off 60 fleece blankets and 50 quilts for those in need.

“There was a great spirit and a feeling of love for each other as we served together, as well as a love for those that we knew would benefit from our donations,” said Janet Foster, a member of the stake. 

As word spread about the project, participants even included community members who aren’t members of the church.

Story continues below video. This video was created by Hooper Stake member Jacob Draper.

When Larry Ropelato, a member of the stake’s high council, heard packets of food were being assembled for inner-city children who might otherwise go hungry, he made time to help. “It touched my heart,” Ropelato said.

He wasn’t the only one touched by the effort, either. He said transporting donations to the church, where they were assembled before being sent off, required a small army.

On the day the items were assembled and prepared, Ropelato was part of a group that filled the bags of food for the pantry pack program. The assembly line of volunteers putting items into zippered bags became so efficient that 725 pantry packs were filled in about an hour, he said.

Some volunteers who arrived for a second shift went home because there was nothing for them to do, he said. “I left being so impressed with what I had seen from all the people that showed up,” Ropelato said.

Ken Campbell, also a member of the stake’s high council, said the effort was a good representation of how Jesus taught his followers to serve.

“You’ve got people from different denominations getting together,” he said. “Regardless of what one person believes in relation to religion, they are willing to help and serve. If you read how the Savior lived, he never once mentioned about faith. He just said we need to serve one another.”

Prior to the day of service, Foster said a baby shower was held to collect items for Catholic Community Services St. Martha’s Baby Project.

“We donated a blanket, some socks and washcloths at the shower,” she said of her family. “It wasn't anything too huge, but when we added our small donation with everyone else's, it was a significant amount of items that we were able to donate to Catholic Community Services.”

The Hooper Stake’s donations alone will help Catholic Community Services baby project operate for a few months, said its director, Maresha Bosgieter. About $7,000 in baby items were donated.

On top of that, Bosgieter said pantry packs the Hooper Stake provided will feed the program’s participants fed for about a month.

The hygiene kits participants assembled also came as a welcome surprise, Bosgieter said.

“The hygiene kits are not something we get donations of very often,” Bosgieter said. “We give those to seniors who receive our home deliveries and to those who may have been homeless or displaced who get our move-in baskets or who visit our homeless or Lincoln pantries.”

The number of volunteers who came together also impressed Bosgieter.

“A lot of them have never even been to CCS,” she said. “They probably just heard about what we do.”

In addition to helping those in need, creating a feeling of community was one of the project’s goals, said Chad Tenney, a second counselor in the stake presidency.

“It was our way to reflect and do what Christ would have us do,” Tenney said. “That involves everyone, not just members of one church.”

The result of crossing denomination lines and just serving, he said, was “pretty remarkable.”

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis. 


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