Last April, the leaders of our church asked the 14 million LDS members around the world to devote a day of service to the community to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the church’s welfare program.
Our stake (like a geographic division of members) sponsored a food drive along with a 5k race, a one-mile stroll, and a kid’s 100-yard dash to help LINK Against Hunger, a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization in our community.
All the usual worries popped up.
Will anybody come?
Will we get enough food to make a respectable donation?
Will the 5k trails we’ve charted work?
Will the good weather cooperate?
Since this is the first time we’ve had an event like this, we didn’t know what to expect,
especially weather wise since we had a snowstorm last weekend.
I learned a few statistics along the way.
Even though we live in one of the wealthiest counties in the nation,
there are more than 1,500 homeless men, women, and children on any given night in Fairfax County.
Close to 60 percent of those facing homelessness are in families.
More than 75 percent of children in these families are under the age of 11.
We learned there is an overwhelming ongoing effort
to feed the suburban hungry around us.
Seventy percent of the households served by the Capital Area Food Bank
are called “food insecure,”
meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Our dream was to overwhelm the LINK Against Hunger program with our generous support.
I think we did it.
When we arrived early this morning, volunteers from LINK were already filling trucks with food donations.
Car after car drove up with trunks full of food.
Church members came carrying arms full of bags and boxes of food.
People waited patiently in line at the cash donation table writing checks and putting cash in the donation box.
From 8 until about 11 am, the cars and the people kept coming.
We easily had 500 people attend carrying bags, boxes, cartons of food.
As I cheered runners and walkers coming across the finish line,
I looked over a the shimmering lake with all the golden autumn trees around it
and felt thankful for the weather,
and for every person that climbed out of their warm bed
and came out in the cold to do something good for other people.
I saw Moms bundled up in winter gear
with babies wrapped in layers of blankets
in jogging strollers as they ran across the finish line.
Kids challenged their parents to beat them
as they dashed ahead of them edging them out right at the finish line.
Amazing what can happen when a group of like-minded people get together
and combine their resources, energy and enthusiasm to help others.
The giving spirit is palpable.
My favorite part of the morning
was holding the tape for the finishing line for the four kids’ 100-yard dashes.
When the kids took off, they moved their little legs as fast as they could
and kept their eyes laser-focused on the finish line.
They lit up with pride and excitement
as they were each awarded a medal for their participation
and parents and friends cheered them all on.
By 11 a.m., we collected 2.5 tons of food.
$1500 in cash donations,
and a $1,000 worth of food yet to come from the church’s welfare facility.
We did good today.
We filled seven trucks, the back of an SUV and then had to recruit one more van to transport all the food.
The director of the food pantry said, “What a machine we had going.
We had trucks parked along the curb,
people would pull up and unload their food into the trucks
and head off to register for the walk/run.
We had Elders from the LDS church helping put the food into the boxes
and we kept filling up truck after truck.”
Our goal was to take advantage of our “opportunities to do good.”
Today we did it.
We did good and we felt good.
And I think we’re ready to do it again.