Although Wednesdays are usually known as the halfway point to the work week, the "hump day," in the unassuming community of Mt. Pleasant, Utah, Wednesdays mean something very different: an opportunity to serve.
Three stakes combine weekly to donate their time and talents in various service projects. The projects range from hygiene kits to toys, medical dolls to quilts, and all are done with a smile.
Linda Levitt, a founder of the project, described how it has grown.
It began as a stake activity six years ago. Then the stake's humanitarian leader, Sister Levitt would meet monthly with ward humanitarian leaders and call the LDS Humanitarian Center to see what projects needed doing. Soon, she and her husband, Keith, were called as humanitarian missionaries and given special instruction to see to the humanitarian needs of the entire area.
"That has really helped, to be a service missionary and know that you're supposed to serve the whole area," Sister Levitt said.
The weekly meeting of the service group was based on a demonstration the Levitts saw of a similar group, taking the idea and running. "If they can do it, why can't we?" she said they asked themselves. At first, all the projects could be neatly loaded into their living room until their monthly trip to the bishops' storehouse in Moroni. Now their house and porch are packed enough to require taking a load once or twice a week.
With three stakes, 19 wards and an average of 35 people weekly, the group serves a wide variety of causes and areas, from local and statewide needs to projects shipped overseas, particularly to the Middle East, she said. Each February, the group throws a baby shower for their local hospital, making sure every baby born will be able to have a new set of clothes and a blanket. Another project they do for the hospital is to make medical dolls for children needing surgery or other major medical procedures, said James Hendrickson, another service missionary helping with the weekly gathering.
Medical dolls are blank dolls that the doctors use to illustrate to a child what they will do during the operation. After the operation, the nurses draw a happy face on one side and a sad face on the other to better help the child express how they are feeling and where it hurts by turning or pointing to the doll accordingly, Elder Hendrickson said. This helps them feel more at ease about the purpose for their hospital visit.
"After they get done talking with them, the children are kind of over their apprehension about it," he said.
Elder Hendrickson and his wife, Sister Anna Hendrickson, were called on a two-year mission in January and say it has been a tremendous blessing to serve Heavenly Father's children in such a way.
"It's just great to work with them," Elder Hendrickson said. "You know you're doing good."
Sister Levitt said while she is glad for all the good the projects do for their intended parties, she is amazed at the good they do before they ever reach their intended hands.
"That was one of the surprises for me is that this does so much good before it leaves," she said.
One man, Mike, came in with bushy hair, a long beard and smelled of cigarette smoke. He had been sent by his bishop because Mike needed a quilt for his bed and the bishop thought the service group could help him tie it himself as opposed to giving him a handout. Some of the older ladies taught him how to tie quilts, which he helped them do for several weeks. After a couple of months, he brought his quilt to be tied. Sister Levitt said she thought that was the last they would see of him, but he came in the next week. He kept coming, week after week, asking to be taught how to put a quilt on a frame after mastering quilt tying. From then on they would come on Wednesday mornings to find three quilts framed and ready to be tied. One day, Mike told Elder Levitt that he had recently borne his testimony for the first time. In the coming weeks and months, Mike cleaned himself up, continued to come and volunteer on Wednesday mornings, and eventually married and moved away.
"We'll sure miss him," Sister Levitt said. But the missionary work the service provided to the previously less active Mike was not an isolated incident. Sister Levitt said she encourages visiting teachers to invite their visiting teaching sisters, many of whom are less active, to serve with them on Wednesdays. This helped to reactivate many sisters, she said.
The humanitarian service has benefitted others, too, she said. There are three young ladies with mental disabilities who come every week. One in particular loves talking with the older ladies while cutting out pieces to make cloth balls. She wakes up every day and asks her mother if it is Wednesday yet, Sister Levitt said, because it is her favorite day. Wednesday mornings give her an opportunity for her to get out and talk with people, she said.
Elderly ladies have also told Sister Levitt that Wednesday is their favorite day. "It gives them a chance to get out, associate with others and feel the joy of service," she said.
The Levitts have now finished their second mission serving the group and are still going strong. The Hendricksons also say they hope to be able to serve in this capacity as long as they can. Elder Hendrickson said he hopes their group will inspire others to help in whatever ways they can.
"We can't do it all," he said. "Many hands make light work."