Maxine Sutton's Church assignment has become much more than a calling during the past eight years - it has become a way of life.
"Eight years ago, I was called to be on our ward Relief Society board with a responsibility for the senior single sisters," explained Sister Sutton. That calling has evolved into a strong support system for some 20 senior single sisters in the Yalecrest 2nd Ward, Salt Lake Bonneville Stake. They have become a group of friends who meet together often to share bits and pieces of their lives."Being a part of this little group, sometimes called `Maxine's Ladies' by people in our ward, has been a wonderful blessing for me," observed Sister Sutton. "I have met and learned to love some wonderful ladies. They are my friends and I am theirs."
When a sister first becomes single, usually through the death of her husband, it is a very difficult time, Sister Sutton explained. "There is often a reluctance to acknowledge that they are part of the `singles.' My first step is to establish a friendship with them. I often invite them over to my home for lunch or dinner. The other sisters in the ward also extend their hand of fellowship. We want the sister to know that she is loved, wanted, and needed."
That hand of friendship has grown stronger through the years. When the sisters first began meeting, some 10 sisters attended monthly temple excursions and other activities. Today, the group has expanded to more than 20, with others being added almost monthly.
Variety is the spice of life, believes Sister Sutton, and she tries to fit as many different activities into the group's schedule as she can. In addition to the temple trips, the women meet for family home evening, concerts and theater productions, monthly lunches and a book reading interest group.
"For all of these activities, rides are arranged for the single senior sisters who are unable to drive," noted Sister Sutton. "We call ahead and order tickets. Of course, I spend a lot of time on the phone, but it's worth it all. Everyone is very appreciative and willing to help. They love everything that we do."
A summer garden party and a pie-and-ice-cream get-together are annual highlights for group members.
"Last year we scheduled the pie-and-ice-cream get-together during the holidays. That is sometimes a lonely time," Sister Sutton noted. "By the time the evening was over every single person there had an opportunity to share a Christmas memory from her childhood. It was a marvelous way to get to know each other better and show that we cared."
Showing love and concern has meant more than just fun activities. Illness and heartache are sometimes part of these women's lives and, through their friendships within the group, they find strength and support.
"We are constantly reaching out to each other, showing that we care," Sister Sutton said. One year ago, she recalled, she was in a car accident. After recuperating for six weeks at her son's home, she returned to her own house.
"I didn't fix one meal for at least six weeks, and that's not an exaggeration," she commented. "It was simply amazing. It's just a marvelous little group."
Another added unforeseen benefit of the group has been the missionary work that has been accomplished, said Sister Sutton. There have been several sisters who, for various reasons, were unable to attend the monthly temple trips. Over the years, three of those sisters have received temple recommends and their own endowments.
"That's really been a plus," Sister Sutton said. "When we first started I certainly didn't think that would happen. I've often said that we didn't know we were going to be missionaries. . . .
"It's just wonderful to be a part of this group," she concluded. "It's a place where we all feel comfortable, needed and loved."