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Teenagers work together in interfaith effort to help Ukrainian refugees

High school students utilized JustServe to raise money through a community yard sale

If there’s a lesson she learned while raising money for refugees, Sabrina Stewart of the Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stake said it’s to trust the Lord — and never suppress a good thought. 

“If that’s gonna bring light and goodness into the world, do it. Even if it’s just something small,” said Stewart, age 19. “You don’t know what kind of impact that will have on other people and the lives around you.”

Stewart, who is leaving soon on a full-time mission in the Chile Santiago West Mission, worked with her friend Sarah Connell in March to organize a yard sale to raise money for Ukrainian refugees.

At the time, the two were in the same service learning class at Mountain View High School. Connell — a member of Central Christian Church in Mesa — mentioned that the women at her church had talked about having a fundraising event. Connell and Stewart began working on the effort and brought their two congregations together in the process.

Stewart’s stake president, President Sean Glenn, helped them see how to utilize JustServe.org, which is a website and app connecting community organizations with volunteers. 

A sign advertises a community yard sale in Mesa, Arizona, on March 26, 2022. Two teenagers organized the fundraiser to benefit Samaritan’s Purse in their work to aid Ukrainian refugees.
A sign advertises a community yard sale in Mesa, Arizona, on March 26, 2022. Two teenagers organized the fundraiser to benefit Samaritan’s Purse in their work to aid Ukrainian refugees. | Racheal Garner

“Sarah and Sabrina are great examples of taking action on a desire to do good,” President Glenn said. “Their efforts did more than help Ukrainian refugees; they brought together neighbors from different faiths and unified our community through Christlike service.”

The yard sale came together in a week’s time. Said Stewart, “It was very quick, and that was something that just really touched me, how fast it all came together.”

At the beginning of the week, the teens were nervous that they didn’t have many donations. By the end of the week, they were feeling overwhelmed because so many things had been donated. Everyone was supportive and helpful from both congregations and the community.

“So many people came in, so many people helped, and it honestly was a miracle that we got everything set up and all ready. It was such a good event,” Stewart said. 

The yard sale raised $6,552 that was then donated to Samaritan’s Purse, an organization that provides food, water and other aid to displaced Ukrainians in Poland, Romania and Moldova.

A yard sale benefitting Ukrainian refugees is held in Mesa, Arizona, on March 26, 2022.
A yard sale benefitting Ukrainian refugees is held in Mesa, Arizona, on March 26, 2022. | Rachael Garner

Courtnee Day, associate student pastor at Central Christian Church, said Stewart and Connell did an incredible job organizing the fundraiser.

“Any time teenagers see a need in the world and decide to do something about it, it’s such a huge win for the kingdom of God,” she wrote to the Church News. “It was also very cool to see two different churches come together to serve one purpose. I am so proud of Sarah and Sabrina.”

President Glenn said their examples helped inspire the stake to do another refugee project through JustServe, which was completed as a stake as part of the National Day of Service on Sept. 10. 

Stewart believes the skills she learned in the process will help her on her mission — in particular trusting the Lord.

Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stake JustServe specialist Delynn Bodine, left, with Sarah Connell, center, and Sabrina Stewart, right, at an interfaith banquet on April 7, 2022.
Mesa Arizona Mountain View Stake JustServe specialist Delynn Bodine, left, with Sarah Connell, center, and Sabrina Stewart, right, at an interfaith banquet on April 7, 2022. | Provided by Delynn Bodine

“And trusting the Spirit and that feeling, that good feeling, that things are going to work out, especially when it’s hard or when you don’t see the way because He sees the big picture and He can turn our small efforts into something amazing,” she said.

As for teenagers who are considering doing  something to help others, she hopes they go for it — even if it’s just something small — because they don’t know what kind of impact that will have on other people.  

“Remember that you do have an influence. I think sometimes we can feel really small in the world, but by serving others, we can influence lives and change the world for the better,” she said. “I think that’s something that we should all take advantage of.”

Related Story
‘It just always brings me joy’: How youth and young adults are using JustServe, from high school clubs to service projects
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