Community, Memoir

Mourning the loss of local newspapers

I have a new cause.

I want to revive small town newspapers.

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I know that’s beyond my capacity, and that hometown papers are quaint relics now,  but I wish I could wave a magic wand (or hit an old typewriter key) and restore them in all the small towns across America.

The demise of these papers has left a void that large newspapers (also sadly failing) and social media can’t fill.

Social media doesn’t create or sustain a sense of community like a town newspaper.

Scrolling through a Facebook feed and seeing an occasional, brief newsy post does not come close to holding a newspaper in your hands and reading about everything happening in town.

Now, keep in mind, I majored in journalism back in journalism’s heydays, right after Nixon and Watergate, Woodward and Bernstein. Back then, strong, robust, independent newspapers were the norm.

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Every town had its own newspaper. Seems quaint now — like back in the “olden days.”

If you can imagine it, we even learned about things like “objectivity” in journalism classes.

It was drilled into our heads that reporters should tell both sides of a story.

We learned the difference between news stories and opinion pieces.

Yes, it was a different world then.

While a student, I spent a summer as the editor of The Springville Herald, my hometown newspaper. Then, I became the editor of the university’s student newspaper — The Utah Statesman.  

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Yes, that’s Geraldo Rivera back in the 70s, teaching us about journalism as the institution of social change.
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This is how The Statesman looked back in the 70s. 

I loved the newspaper world — all of it.  I loved the concept of gathering news, trying to present it fairly, and making the university or the town seem smaller, more intimate, more unified by keeping people informed about what was going on where they lived and worked.

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After college, I worked in the press department for U.S. Senator Jake Garn from Utah. One of my favorite parts of the job was traveling around the State of Utah, visiting small-town newspaper editors. It gave me a sense of not just what was happening, but what mattered to people in different parts of the state.

It was always abundantly clear by these visits and by reading the different papers that what people cared about in Beaver, Utah was different than what mattered to people in Tremonton. Each different newspaper captured the essence of its people, its geography,  challenges, and unique personality.

After I quit working on the Hill, my mom always gifted me an annual subscription to The Springville Herald. I loved when it showed up in my mailbox.

I loved knowing about everything happening in my hometown —  who was celebrating a first birthday, who was getting married, the issues before the town council, who won the local golf tournament or football championship, which couples were celebrating big anniversaries, and who was running for office.

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This is a photo from The Springville Herald of the football team — Snow Dairy — that my dad sponsored and coached. My dad is in the upper left corner. My brother, Kelly, is #62 in front of him.

Since my mom passed away a few months ago, I keep running into old family friends who didn’t know she died. They all say, “I miss The Springville Herald. That paper always kept me updated on things like that.”

I miss The Springville Herald too — and all the other newspapers that have folded. I miss the local flair, the feature stories that capture the flavor of a town and its people.

When I worked at The Springville Herald, I wrote a feature story about a local character named Ivan Tryfonas. I called him “the town crier” because he roamed the town keeping everyone informed about what was happening.

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“At a glance,” I wrote, “Ivan looks as though he could fill a doorway with ease and take on the biggest of athletes without hassle. But, Ivan uses his strength to work for the betterment of the community.”

His size and omnipresence on Main Street often made him an intimidating figure in town. But, the article personalized him, and helped people see the gentle side of someone they may have feared.

I heard he couldn’t stop smiling after that article was published. He died five years later of a heart attack. I’m glad I captured his one-of-a-kind presence in our hometown.

Personalizing a man like Ivan is just one of the benefits of a local newspaper. I always liked reading about the new businesses, art exhibits, and plays in town. All of that often seems to go unnoticed now. A banner across Main Street hardly does the same thing as the full story and photos in a newspaper.

Some towns have tried to make up for the loss of newspapers by putting a few local stories in a newsletter that’s tucked in with the city bill. But, that hardly serves the same purpose, and is of no worth at all to those who pay their bills online.

When we first moved to Herndon, Virginia, there were at least three newspapers — The Observer, The Connection and the Times. They made our town tucked into the sprawling Washington, D.C. suburbs seem homey and unified. It gave us a separate identity from the broader D.C. metro area. But, one by one, they all went out of business.

You can still get a taste of the value of old newspapers, by visiting newspapers.com.

You’ll be surprised at the gems you can find there. (It is primarily a genealogy site.)

I found the actual story about Ivan and a lot of stories about my family — including a story about my parents’ wedding that described my mother’s dress in great detail and even listed everyone in her wedding party. These are priceless gems.

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Yes, I’m mourning the loss of newspapers.

I know it’s unrealistic to hope for a revival of  small town newspapers, but an old journalism student from the 70s can hope and reminisce, right?

Anybody with me on this?

 

Community, Family, Uncategorized

A Visit to the Beauty Shop

When I was growing up, my mom went to the “beauty shop” every week to get her “hair done.”

That meant she went to Beth’s, the neighborhood salon, and Beth shampooed, conditioned and towel-dried her hair. Then, she wrapped her wet hair around rollers, and sat her in a chair under a hooded hair dryer.

Think Truvy in Steel Magnolias.

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After sitting under the hair dryer, probably reading a romance novel, Beth styled mom’s hair and sprayed enough hair spray on it to last for the next week.

Then, Mom slept on a pillow with a satin pillow case to keep it from getting messed up.

Last week I had the pleasure of going with my mom to “get her hair done” at Helen’s, a salon she’s probably been going to since Beth died many years ago.

I had so much fun walking around that salon that my mom worried I’d offended Helen.

I couldn’t help myself.

It was a step back in time.

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It made me think of Dolly Parton as Truvy saying, “I don’t trust anyone that does their own hair. I don’t think it’s normal.” Or, “The bigger the hair, the closer to God.”

I didn’t mean to be rude, I was just fascinated and impressed.

The thing about Helen’s and other salons like this is that they are not just places to get your hair done, they’re places of friendship and conversation that span decades, even generations.

Not only has Helen done my mom’s hair, she did my Grandma’s and two of my aunts’ hair. She knows a lot about my family.

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A well-worn chair in Helen’s salon

She asked my mom about my aunt, who is now in a memory care unit of an assisted living facility.

“I miss her,” she said. “I remember when she started to get dementia. I was out of town and she called me and said, ‘Helen, where are you? I went to get my hair done and you weren’t there.'”

Helen said, “I’m on vacation. Remember, I told you I’d be out of town?”

My aunt didn’t remember.

“That was the beginning,” Helen said. “Then it just got worse. It was hard watching her go downhill.”

Helen even styled my Grandma’s and another aunt’s hair when they died so that they would look beautiful for their viewings and funerals.

IMG_6270While touring the salon, I heard my mom telling Helen about something, and then she said, “Helen, what would mama have done?”

Who has that kind of relationship with their hair stylist?

Not many of us can ask our hair stylist about how our mothers would have handled a situation or a problem.

It struck me as unique and beautiful that my family has “roots” (pun intended) with Helen’s hair salon.

Helen and my mom
Helen and my mom

My visits to the hair salon are never as personal or friendly as my mom’s visits to Helen’s.

The guy who does my hair is just that… a guy who does my hair.

I like him. I know he’s from Turkey and that he’s married and has a young daughter. But that’s the extent of our relationship. He doesn’t know my mom, my sister, my family, or what my mom would do in any given situation. He just knows about my hair.

Helen’s may not be a high-end, fancy salon, and it might not make the historical register, but for many women, like my mom, Grandma and aunts, it has been a personally significant place where a woman named Helen dedicated her life not just to cutting and styling their hair, but to witnessing their lives, keeping their confidences, and being their friend.

IMG_6271From the clock with hands made of scissors to the “rain hats” for sale on a peg board, it was a charming salon, full of stories.

Someday I’m going back with a notebook and pen or a tape recorder and I’m going to say, “Helen, tell me everything you know about my family.”

So, watch for another blog on this topic because I sense that after years of doing my mom, grandma’s and aunts’ hair, Helen knows a lot more than how to style hair…

 

 

Community, From the News, Uncategorized

Refugee Relief — No More Stranger

Just reading and watching stories about the millions of refugees makes my heart hurt.

So when I heard our Church leaders focus on it in our General Conference recently, my heart rejoiced.

A friend texted me during Elder Patrick Kearon’s talk and said, “I just LOVE this new emphasis on refugees in the church! So much need. So Christian. Makes me proud of my church!”

I couldn’t agree more.

Sixty million refugees is unfathomable. 

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It’s one thing to watch the news and read the stories about groups of people fleeing a country because of war or persecution. It’s another to know and try to understand their individual stories.

My Mormon history is full of stories of my ancestors being driven out of their homes by people who opposed their religious views. 

For me, personally, I can hear references to the persecution experienced by the Mormons in the 1800s and feel quite removed from it, but it becomes a lot more real when I consider the impact that persecution had on my family.

In 1844, Mormons built the city of Nauvoo, Illinois into a prosperous and beautiful city. But, people worried about the political and economic power being amassed by this growing group of people.

This led to Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon Church, and his brother, Hyrum being wrongly accused of treason and sent to jail.

Both were murdered by angry mobs that stormed the jail.

Hyrum was my great, great, great grandfather.

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Hyrum and Joseph Smith

He was shot in the face and killed by a bullet that was fired through the door of the jail.

I cannot forget the stories of how his wife, Mary Fielding, took the news or how his three-year-old daughter, Martha Ann, my great, great grandmother remembered being wrapped in a blanket and carried to see her dead father and uncle.

Because of the continued violence, Mary and her children were forced to leave Nauvoo.

Martha Ann said, “We left our home just as it was, our furniture, and the fruit trees hanging full of rosy cheeked peaches and apples. We bid good-bye to the loved home that reminded us of our beloved father everywhere we turned.”

This is not unlike what is happening across the world.

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Depiction of Mary Fielding crossing the Plains

Mary Fielding and her children crossed the Mississippi River and huddled around a campfire on the bank of the river as they listened to the bombardment of the city of Nauvoo.

Maybe it’s that heritage that makes me so sympathetic to the plight of today’s refugees.

 

One of our leaders, Linda K. Burton, recited the history of the LDS women’s organization, called The Relief Society, saying it was organized “to do something extraordinary.” She conveyed the message that we are expected, as members of the Church, to do the extraordinary by answering the pressing calls to help.

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Refugee Camp

In response to that reminder, church members immediately searched for ways to help.

This week, in my role as a public affairs representative for the Church, I met with local leaders of Catholic Charities, an organization that is doing amazing work to help the refugees.

They told us they were a bit overwhelmed with the calls from Mormons, asking what they could do to help. “A good problem to have,” they agreed.

I think we were all moved by Linda Burton’s question, “What if their story were my story?”

In many ways, the stories of today’s refugees are our stories. Many of us have stories in our families and our cultures of people fleeing their homes to escape war and religious persecution.

And, we all have a responsibility to help.

I loved Elder Patrick Kearon’s comment, “This moment does not define the refugees, but our response will help define us.”

I hope this moment will help define me in a positive and powerful way as a disciple of Jesus Christ who responds to the call to serve.

How will it define you?

In the Washington, D.C. area, you can find out how to help here and here.

To listen to Elder Kearon’s talk click here.

 

 

Community, Memoir

Beware of Halloween

Beware of Halloween.

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Kids will do anything for candy.

Jerry Seinfeld said, “Candy was my whole life when I was a kid. For the first 10 years, I think the only clear thought I had was ‘Get Candy.’ That was it – family, friends, school – they were just obstacles in the way of the candy. I could only think get candy; get candy; get candy.”

I wish I could say that ended when I was 10.

Sometimes my brain works like that now.

For now, forget all the studies about how bad candy is for you.

All that research about sugar rotting your teeth, making you fat, and increasing your cravings for all things not good for you? Forget it.

It’s Halloween. It’s all about the candy.

The costumes are just a means to an end.

As a kid, the more candy you get, the better. The one with the most candy wins.

Get candy. Get candy. Get candy.

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Michigan football coach, Jim Harbaugh taught his kids that Halloween is all about the hustle — “constant hustle, hustling all the time.”

“You can hit the neighborhood in one costume — and better to jog and run from house to house, then you can get more candy than anybody else. Then come home make a quick change into the second costume and go hit those same houses again.”

I thought we were pretty good at getting candy when I was a kid, but clearly we were amateurs. We never even thought of the costume change-up strategy and the Halloween hustle.

We just plotted out the best neighborhoods – the nice, compact ones with lots of houses crammed in them so we could get a lot of candy in a short time.

You know it’s serious trick-or-treating when you outgrow your dinky little plastic orange pumpkin and pull out a pillowcase.

Now, because it’s all about the candy, you sacrifice the clever costume and go with the lame variety like grabbing a bed sheet and cutting two holes in it or putting a patch on your eye and pretending to be a pirate. I once blacked out my eye and wore a baseball cap. Good enough, I thought.

Again, means to an end here.

When our trick-or-treating starting looking like this, my mom did not hide her disgust.

She said, “When you stop dressing up in decent costumes, rummage through the house for old pillowcases, and beg me for a ride across town just so you can get more candy, you’re too old to trick-or-treat. And when kids like that knock on my door, I don’t want to open it. That’s not Halloween. That’s just begging for candy.”

Clearly, she did not understand the kid-crazed mind that can only think one thing at Halloween – get candy, get candy, get candy.

And gathering all that candy was only part of the fun. The other part was coming home, dumping it all out on the living room floor and sorting it into piles — Tootsie Rolls, Tootsie Pops, Lemon Heads, Sixlets, and Mary Janes — all in separate piles.

Then, the negotiations started — – I’ll give you two of my bubble gums for one of your Lemon Heads. The good chocolate stuff like Butterfingers, Baby Ruths and Kit Kats were in the not-up-for-grabs, no-way-are-you-getting-this-pile.

Because kids can’t think straight when it comes to candy, Halloween can be a very dangerous holiday.

For one thing, you have to watch out for candy thieves. They’re so consumed by the need for candy; they’ll just rip it right of your hands and leave you standing there sugar-deprived and deflated.

My brother, all tough and rugged, said that could never happen to him. He would fight off a candy thief lickety-split.

But, then it happened.

His clearest Halloween memory was when a candy-hungry, sugar-obsessed overgrown kid mugged him. Of course he had gone to a different neighborhood to trick-or-treat because our neighborhood was too spread out and the candy potential was too low.

“We were probably too old to be trick-or-treating,” he said, “but we wanted that candy. Between Jon and me, we had a full pillowcase of candy by the end of the night. Then, some big kid came around and tried to steal it. I worked hard for that candy. I wasn’t about to give it up. We tugged back and forth and pushed and punched each other for a while. Finally, after he kid kicked me in the shin, I gave it up. And, Jon, he just handed his over first thing. He didn’t even fight for it. After it was over, I said, ‘Jon, what were you thinking just giving up all that candy? We had enough to get us through until New Year’s.’”

The things we do for candy.

The other lurking danger, according to our mom, was that some sickos might hand out apples with razor blades in them.

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I know, it sounds outrageous, but it was a thing in the late sixties.

Getting a seemingly good old nutritious apple was the worst possible thing that could happen to a kid on Halloween.

They even reported this razor-blades-in-apple danger on the news. That prompted legislators in New Jersey to pass a law that if you booby-trapped your Halloween treats, you’d go to prison.

It was hard to believe our neighbors would put razor blades in apples.

But, then again, we left the neighborhood on a get-more-candy-mission so, we didn’t really know who was giving us what now did we?

It all added to the spooky nature of Halloween.

So, now that I’ve given you some good candy-grubbing strategies and some safety tips, go out and have yourself a Happy Halloween.

Get candy, get candy, get candy.

Just do not get apples.

I repeat, do not get apples.

Happy Halloween.

Community, Religion

Please Don’t De-friend Me

I’m sitting on a plane sending a few birthday messages to my friends when it occurs to me that I’ve been blowing up Facebook with my “Day to Serve” life lately.

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I hope my friends haven’t hid me from their timelines like I’ve wanted to hide my friend Erin from mine.

You see, Erin is so obsessed with MASNsports  photography contest that she posts about a thousand Nats pictures a second. Her one-track posting habits have earned her a lot of grief from her friends, including me.

But, as I looked at my own “Day to Serve” Facebook posts, I realized I should button my sassy lip about Erin’s baseball posts.

I’m an obsessed, one-topic poster too.

Let me try to explain myself…

I am a regional coordinator for Day to Serve. So, early in the beginning of each year, we start holding early morning conference calls to plan this annual service event. Since it’s geographically huge, covering Virginia, D.C., Maryland, and  West Virginia., and we want it to keep growing within this region, it takes over a big chunk of my life, like baseball takes over Erin’s.

The Governors of these states and the mayor of Washington, D.C. appoint staff members to represent them on this committee, and since the LDS Church is a major Day to Serve partner, and I serve as an LDS public affairs director for the DC/Virginia area, I help with everything from news media to interfaith and government partnerships.

The primary focus of our service is on feeding the hungry and improving our communities. We started out with one day a year but grew to a two-week time period to allow more groups to participate, including our friends of the Jewish faith who have a Saturday Sabbath/Shabbat and many Jewish holidays in September.

Can you tell I am trying to justify being a frequent one-topic Facebook poster?

I get so immersed in Day to Serve that I get “share” happy.

A great photo of Bryce Harper with a reminder to buy Nats tickets? Share that baby! A newspaper story about going to the Town of Herndon to promote Day to Serve? Gotta post that! A Feed the Need event in Crystal City? People should know about that!

I wish I could say it might end soon, but we’re starting the most intense time of Day to Serve now because hundreds of service events are going to be happening over the next few weeks and as the results pour in, I won’t be able to help myself.

Please don’t de-friend me for this.

Just patiently understand that it will soon end.

But, in the meantime, try to share the joy with me, and let me brag just a little…

Thanks Julie Fred for the photos
Thanks Julie Fred for the photos

This year, I’ve been particularly proud of our Virginia team for:

  • Getting the Washington Nationals as a Day to Serve partner and having them sponsor two games with part of the proceeds going to Capital Area Food Bank to feed the hungry
  • Getting 500 LDS missionaries to attend the game which helped spike the Nats food donations. After all what do missionaries do anyway? Serve!
  • Getting a Day to Serve proclamation issued by Governor Bob McDonnell
  • Getting Day to Serve resolutions passed in every regional government organization in the Commonwealth of Virginia, resulting in local government jurisdictions following suit and getting their towns, cities, and counties to support Day to Serve. We even saw how one mayor’s leadership in a small Virginia town brought a divided town together under the banner of service.council
  • The Virginia Department of Transportation is encouraging all the participants in the Adopt-A-Highway program to do their clean-up projects during the Day to Serve time frame, adding hundreds of more projects to our effort.
  • Getting the Capital Area Boy Scouts on board with great clean-up projects and a new Day to Serve patchbadge

Of course there are more, but a blog can only be so long.

So far, there are about 500 service events listed on the daytoserve.org website, and many more will start popping up in the next two weeks. The results are so astounding that I’ll have to share that.

You see, when millions of people in a huge region of the United States decide to work together to help each other, it’s news. It’s Facebook-worthy. It begs to be shared, promoted, and posted.

And, I confess I have an ulterior motive: I want you to join us.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8fR-i-gQFA

Do something over the next two weeks to help someone else. Drop off some food at a food pantry. Send in a check to your local food bank. Fill an extra bag of groceries at the store and remember people who are hungry need quality food. Donate some non-perishable protein like peanut butter.

And, did you know it’s extremely difficult for needy families to afford diapers? People rarely think to give baby supplies.

Go to daytoserve.org and find out how you can be part of this growing movement.

Then, go ahead, share it on Facebook!

You know I will.

 

Community, From the News, Religion, Uncategorized

Overwhelmed by the Goodness of Others

Last Friday, President Scott Wheatley, our church’s leader over the area from Vienna to Herndon, Virginia and everything in between, wondered what we could do as a community to help the Hurricane Sandy victims in New York and New Jersey.

President Scott Wheatley with Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors

He contacted Kevin Calderwood, a church member from Reston who is now serving as a mission president in the New York South Mission of the church, overseeing 200 LDS missionaries. President Calderwood quickly responded and said the people there needed warm clothing, blankets and coats.

We sent out the word last Saturday that these good people needed our help.

I sent an email out to my neighbors, and other members of our congregations in this Northern Virginia area did the same. We also invited some of our church members in surrounding areas to join us by bringing clothing items and gift cards in $25 increments to help our missionaries buy food because they have depleted their own funds eating out. They can’t get back to their own homes for meals and they are spending all their waking hours hauling furniture out of homes and helping people one house at a time.

Local bishops announced an “Emergency Gifts of the Heart” donation event to be held at one of our buildings the next day. One couple in Frederick, Maryland immediately left the church, rallied their neighbors and joined other church members, packing up vans, trucks and a long trailer they towed to Oakton, Virginia because they felt the urgency of the call to help.

On Monday afternoon, the day before the election, when I showed up at the donation site, Stuart and Trina Neel, who organize a similar non-emergency “Gifts of the Heart” event like this twice a year, were busy putting up signs to direct cars through an efficient drive-thru where donors could drive up, drop off their donations and exit the parking lot. Our church members know this drill extremely well after participating in it for at least the last 10 years. In fact, Kevin Calderwood, the NY South mission president, is the church leader who really built up this event in the area all those years ago.

Hunter Daines drops off another bag of donations

Little did he know then that the giving model he perfected would be the same one that would benefit him and those he serves so many years later when faced with perhaps the most challenging assignment in his life as the leader in an area hit by the “storm of the century.”

Slowly the volunteers came. They picked up yellow “Helping Hands” vests, went to their posts and the work began. Volunteers then started coming in hoards and didn’t stop all night. The cars lined up from the drive-up and drop-off area, out the parking lot and down Hunter Mill Road. And the line never let up all night long.

Vehicles stuffed from floor to ceiling continued to be unloaded by teenagers who used their day off from school to gladly help. They rushed the items into the gymnasium where a woman from Rockville had positioned her wheelchair for the evening to direct the teenagers where to put their bags of donations.

Then, hundreds of volunteers hurriedly grabbed bags, tore them open and began the massive sorting.  When stacks of clothing became too high, they piled them neatly below the tables — infants, boys, girls, young women, young men, men and women. We saw boxes full of brand new towels, brand new coats. Families came together and every child had a job to do. The biggest challenge of the night was tracking down enough boxes for all the donations.

Becky Probst from Reston walked into the church and asked Trina what she could do to help. “Do you have a van?” she asked. “I have a van,” Becky said. “Then go find boxes — as many and as fast as you can.” Becky left and wondered where she could go that hadn’t all ready been cleaned out of boxes by other volunteers. Finally, she pulled her car over to the side of the road and said a prayer. “Help me find boxes,” she pled.  The name of a man she’d worked with on a different project years before popped into her head, and that led her to another man who owned a moving company. She emailed him and he responded promptly asking,”How many do you need and when?” Without hesitation, he offered all the boxes we needed AND trucks, and drivers.

In one night, we filled five 26-foot trucks with not an inch to spare and still had boxes we would send up later with another church’s load later in the week. We collected over $45,000 in $25 gift cards, had 400 or more volunteers receiving, sorting, boxing, loading, about 2,500 boxes, 10,000 diapers and over 100 bags of summer clothing we donated to the MS Foundation locally.

Channel 9 and Channel 7 news reporters joined us along with Sharon Bulova, Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Everyone was astounded at what we were able to do in 48 hours.

http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151186707268192

I put a collection bin on my porch and every time I returned home from an errand, I found more clothing. The bin overflowed, filled up my porch and the sidewalk leading up to the porch. The charitable goodness of my neighbors overwhelmed me. And, by far, the most frequent comment I heard was, “Thank you for giving me an opportunity to help!”

This is just one of my carloads

We had no idea what our community could do in a weekend but when motivated purely by love and a desire to help others, we learned they could do miracles.

When the five-truck caravan arrived in New York and the back doors were opened, I hope the people there felt the love behind every jacket, pair of pants and warm quilt.

And you know what the second most often asked question was?

“What else can I do?”

I got emails from people wanting to take time off work to drive up and help. One was from a church leader in Mount Vernon that said, “I have people chomping at the bit to get up there and help! Just send me the word when it’s time and they’ll be off.”

For now, it’s hard for the rescue workers to accommodate extra people. They can’t feed and house more bodies with an infrastructure so badly ruined, but soon they will have need for manpower, and I have no doubt those calls for help will be answered swiftly and generously.

One of our church leaders was once asked how we get members of the church to do so much service. He wanted to know how we get young men to postpone college for two years while they serve missions and why older couples leave their grandchildren and aging parents to serve humanitarian missions. How do you get people to do so much?

The simple answer was this: We ask.

I’ve seen the same thing in good people everywhere over the last week.

To everyone who helped with this emergency service event, thank you.

It’s amazing how much good we can do in the world when we just respond to a simple call for help even if it’s as small as a $25 gift card, a coat, or a warm pair of mittens for a cold set of hands.

I’m overwhelmed by the goodness around me.

Community, From the News, Religion

Day to Serve and The Snowball Effect

Last January, I received a new church public affairs assignment.

One of our first decisions was to encourage the members of our church to dedicate a day to serve.

We explored the various needs in our communities.

After reviewing some startling hunger statistics, we decided to focus on the needs of those who are considered “food insecure.”

One in four Americans don’t know where their next meal will come from.

11.8 percent of people  in Virginia, one in six people in Maryland, a surprising 27.4 percent in the nation’s capital, 

and 21 percent of children in West Virginia live in families that cannot afford food

We reached out to the Governors of Virginia, Maryland, and West Virginia and the Mayor of Washington, D.C. and asked for their support.

They eagerly jumped on board.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoIXrRRRikE&feature=plcp

They issued proclamations declaring September 29 as a regional Day to Serve.

They reached out to their community faith groups and asked them to join us by organizing and/or participating in service projects to benefit the hungry.

Governor O’Malley in Maryland set a high bar by sending out letters to over 30 faith groups who all wanted to help.

We have held weekly meetings with our planning committee, which includes representatives from our church and representatives from the Governors’ and Mayor’s offices.

Each week, there is more to report.

More people are catching the vision.

More people want to help.

In West Virginia, all the football games played this Saturday will include food drives.

In Virginia, there are soccer games, 5K races, grocery store food drives, clean-up activities and more.

In D.C., there are “pack the pantry” projects to benefit the Capital Area Food Bank.

In Maryland, there are activities to clean up the environment and restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay, and feed the hungry.

Enthusiasm is building for what will be a historic, unprecedented regional day to serve.

We set up a website at daytoserve.org and asked every organization sponsoring a service activity to add a pin to a google map.

If you go to the site, you’ll see a packed map, full of activities in this wide swath of the country, all designed to feed the hungry or serve the community.

In fact, we maxed out the number of pins allowed on a google map.

We are now in the process of redesigning it to accommodate all the projects that haven’t made it on the map yet.

Every day the snow ball gets bigger with more activities, more donations, and more people gearing up to serve.

If you’re not sure, how to help, go to the website, click on a pin in your community and show up.

Everybody is welcome and everybody is needed.