Making a difference

Richard Ulrich believes every person has a quiver stuffed with five benevolent arrows. Each has its own potent title: Time, Energy, Resources, Desire and Love.

"And when one of your arrows goes out, you always get it back double," said Brother Ulrich, a member of the Independence 3rd Ward of the Independence Missouri Stake. Fail to use an arrow, you lose it, he warns.

Brother Ulrich, 73, has spent his retirement firing happy darts at others.

Six mornings a week he pulls his pickup truck into an Independence-area grocery store parking lot to be loaded with surplus bread, melons, lettuce and other food items. Then he spends the next several hours delivering the groceries to neighborhood homeless shelters, Salvation Army kitchens, battered-women homes and other food pantries. Often he drops a basket or two off at the Missouri Independence Mission Office or at an area Church visitors center.

He's delivered food to the needy for 13 years. The financial reward for his labors? Not a nickel.

"You know, if this food wasn't picked-up it would just end up in the dumpster," said Brother Ulrich, who admits age sometimes slows his pace. "It's getting harder to do, but it gets done."

Richard Ulrich is ensuring a community service legacy in Independence. Giving of yourself can be contagious, he says. During his summer delivery runs, he is usually joined by a youth member of his ward.

"Our theme song is hymn 223," Brother Ulrich said. " 'Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?"

His spirit of civic service can be found in countless other LDS homes.

About a year ago, Wayne and Paulene Berge noticed a gap widening between the senior citizens and young people living along their street in Arvada, Colo. Some of the older people didn't like the youngsters making noise and playing in the street. Children walked a wide path around their elders.

"We figured it was because they didn't really know each other," said Brother Berge.

So the Berges decided to get their fellow Queen Street residents acquainted. They invited everyone on their street to a luau-style, neighborhood block party at their home. Children and grownups alike wore loud print Hawaiian shirts and plastic leis. One man arrived wrapped in a faux-grass skirt. Teenagers played games. No one left the party a stranger.

Soon folks were talking more to one another. Warmed by this neighborly spirit, the Berges acted on a suggestion that area youth spend time each month providing service to fellow Queen Street residents. Brother and Sister Berge, the only Church members on their street, applied for a grant from a local community foundation to help organize the Queen Street Youth Services Organization. The grant was received, providing several thousand dollars to help cover start-up costs and buy rakes, snow shovels, a snow blower, landscaping equipment and a special club T-shirt for each child.

Almost a dozen Queen Street boys and girls, ages 4 to 14, now meet every month to plan Queen Street service projects. In the past year, the youth have raked leaves, shoveled snow, baked and delivered cookies and donned Victorian costumes for Christmas carolling to each Queen Street home. Brother and Sister Berge have also chaperoned the group on field trips to Arvada fire and police stations.

"We give some of our time and we enjoy it," Sister Berge said. "We've learned we can do things right here on our own street."

The "Kids Service Club" has drawn attention beyond Queen Street. Recently Arvada Mayor Ken Selman sent a film crew to a club meeting to be used to help start other neighborhood service programs.

LaMar and Pearl Sorenson have long been favorites of Salt Lake City, Utah, area youth. For years the couple owned the Iceberg, a hamburger joint famous for thick malts that seemed to stand a foot over the top of the cup.

When the Sorensons decided to sell the Iceberg their interaction with young people continued. Once a week, they spend a morning reading books to children at a nearby health clinic. Many of the youngsters come from limited economic circumstances. Others are from Spanish-speaking homes and know little English.

Pearl Sorenson, who is not a member of the LDS Church, enlists the Spanish skills she mastered while teaching at a Utah high school. Brother Sorenson, a member of the Valley View 8th Ward, Salt Lake Holladay North Stake, enjoys acting as a surrogate "grandpa" to many of the children.

"We enjoy being with the kids, we enjoy helping others," Brother Sorenson said.

Some volunteer community service efforts, like those practiced for almost two decades by Frances Macias, draw little attention — yet forever change lives.

Sister Macias, a member of the Pasadena 3rd Spanish Branch of the Houston Texas Spanish Stake, offers translation services to scores of Spanish-speaking neighbors. She has helped prepare income tax forms, taught English as a Second Language courses at a Houston YMCA and prepped others at her home for citizenship exams.

Giving community service "helps keep your mind off your own problems," said Sister Macias, who calls herself a "freelance volunteer" and admits being uncomfortable talking about her efforts.

Her first experience with community service occurred as an 8-year-old child when she helped translate for a Spanish-speaking woman at a maternity hospital. The woman was dealing with pregnancy complications and her non-Spanish-speaking doctor needed vital personal information.

Since then, helping others has become "like a calling" to Sister Macias. She lends a voice to people otherwise silent.

Occasionally, the Church News will profile members who are making a difference in their communities. The series will feature members — youth as well as adults — who are finding ways to improve lives, neighborhoods and schools beyond their Church callings. Most will not be LDS missionaries in the traditional sense — but their voluntarism and civic regard sublimely reflect their faith and Christian duty. Do you know of a Latter-day Saint who is helping in this way? If so, please send information to Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah, 84110. Fax (801)237-2524, or e-mail [email protected]

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