Building bridges through service
Special to The Union
The Nevada County branch of the Mormon Church will engage in a beautification effort of five different cemeteries later this month as part of a community service project called “Mormon Helping Hands.”
From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 25, a group of people will take part in the day, which welcomes community involvement as well.
The group was founded in 1998 and focuses on the betterment of the community through service while emphasizing community inclusiveness.
The beautification project will focus on five different cemeteries across Nevada County: The Pioneer Cemetery, both the Catholic and Protestant cemeteries in North San Juan, the Othello cemetery in Nevada City and the Rough and Ready Cemetery.
In addition, members of the group will also be undertaking a community service project at Chana High School in Auburn.
Volunteers will clean the cemeteries of the multitudes of pine needles and leaves using rakes and bags. The aim of the service project is to spruce up cemeteries around the county.
The endeavor is especially meaningful because cemeteries such as the ones chosen for improvement by Mormon Church volunteers and community members rely on these service projects for maintenance and to be kept from going into disarray, according to organizers.
The Mormon Helping Hands organization puts together and enacts a community service project like the cemetery cleanup every year, with the most essential focus being on the community.
“By providing this service we not only enjoy the good feeling of accomplishing something together by working as families to beautify our community, we also show respect for the individuals who are buried here. They are all part of someone’s family,” said Christian Merrill, Auburn’s Stake President for the Church.
The project is open to everyone, not just members of the church, and in recent years the project has grown considerably, such that this year, potential attendance has been estimated at more than 200 by the project’s organizers. The important part of the project for the organizers is the community aspect, which goes beyond simply beautifying the county’s cemeteries.
“The value is that we reach out to the community and serve each other,” said Chris Nielsen, the PR Director for the Mormon Church in Nevada County.
The emphasis for this year’s project is a focus on community involvement, and organizers stressed the message that is the community coming together for each other and for the benefit of the county as a whole, looking beyond just the religious component.
The day of service gives the church an opportunity to bridge the gap between the church as an organization and the community. The nature of this divide creates a difficult dilemma for the church, and although it is the beacon of service which drove the inception of the Helping Hands project and continues to drive the yearly projects, the goal of community members working alongside and in compassionate coordination with church members is a direct goal for the Mormon Church in creating an inclusive, community-oriented project, organizers said.
The website justserve.org is connected to the Mormon Church and serves as a matching service for needed community service and volunteers to accomplish those projects. Neither the projects nor volunteers need be attached to the Mormon Church.
Those interested in volunteering are encouraged to come to any of the five cemeteries at 9 a.m. April 25.
Kael Newtown is a freelance writer in Nevada County and a student at the University of Oregon.
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