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What are plarn mats, port pillows and fidget quilts? See how JustServe volunteers made these unique items to meet specific needs

Hundreds of people serve together for ‘Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself’ event in Arizona

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JustServe volunteers hold up a plarn mat made from plastic grocery bags. The project was one of many acts of service done during a “Love thy neighbor as thyself” event in Chandler, Arizona, on Feb. 19, 2022.

Robin Finlinson


Several community organizations around Chandler, Arizona, now have new supplies and items to help the people they serve after some 200 volunteers worked together to collect, assemble, create, sort, sew and package a variety of large and small projects in one long day of community service. 

Just about every inch of the school gymnasium of Legacy Traditional School in southeast Chandler was filled with people working on these projects for the “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” event in February. 

In one area, volunteers connected plastic grocery bags together to make a plastic yarn — or plarn — and then wove it into sleeping mats for people experiencing homelessness.

Others sewed port pillows, which give comfort to chemotherapy patients by protecting the skin around a portacath. People also sewed fidget quilts with sensory and tactile stimulation to give to Alzheimer’s patients at senior centers.

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A JustServe volunteer sews a fidget quilt to give to a senior center in Chandler, Arizona, as part of a day of service projects on Feb. 19, 2022.

Robin Finlinson

The volunteers also sorted clothing, packaged food, made inspirational cards, and assembled goodie bags and hygiene kits for various nonprofit groups. Almost all of the projects were listed on JustServe.org, which is a website and app that connects community organizations with volunteers.

Members of the Chandler Arizona South Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Sun Valley Community Church and several members of a high school football team all took part. 

Lori Neff, the stake JustServe specialist, said it felt like a huge undertaking but she pressed forward. 

“I was inspired for a reason, and the Lord wanted me to do this, because this is His work,” she said. “And it actually was very easy, because if you follow inspiration, things fall into place. And they did.”

Serving all day together

When planning the event, Neff worked with Pastor Brett Humphrey of the Sun Valley Community Church — who also knew Chandler Arizona South Stake President Troy B. Hansen beforehand.

All three wore special red aprons on which Neff had embroidered, “Love thy neighbor,” to make them more visible to anyone who had questions during the day of service. 

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Chandler Arizona South Stake JustServe specialist Lori Neff, center, stake President Troy B. Hansen next to her and Sun Valley Community Church Pastor Brett Humphrey, right, during a day of service Legacy Traditional School in Chandler, Arizona, Feb. 19, 2022.

Robin Finlinson

“It was fun to see people working together for a common cause and building a Christ-centered community,” Neff said.

The work was challenging — for example, it took about 450 plastic bags to weave one plarn sleeping mat. Collecting and gathering the supplies beforehand took time, then assembling and making the different projects took all day. But the work not only blessed people in need, it also blessed the people serving.

Among the around 200 volunteers who showed up, Neff saw an older woman teaching a child how to use one of the sewing machines. Missionaries and neighbors worked side by side. Young women smiled and laughed together.

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A JustServe volunteer teaches a boy to sew a port pillow for cancer patients as part of a day of service in Chandler, Arizona, on Feb. 19, 2022.

Robin Finlinson

A father brought two of his children — a teen and a pre-teen — who had not wanted to go. “He said, ‘We’ll go for two hours, and we will leave.’ But then they wanted to stay the whole day — he could not get them to leave,” Neff said.

As Neff spoke with community members and neighbors around the school gym, she told them about JustServe. Banners, wristbands and other items also informed people about the service platform.

Working together again

Another interfaith event is now being planned for the upcoming 9/11 National Day of Service, and the organizers will be using JustServe again. Pastor Humphrey and President Hansen want to have another “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself” service event next February as well, and invite even more school groups and sports teams.

“So it will be a community thing as well as interfaith,” Neff said. “We are united in our efforts to help those in need.”

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JustServe volunteers assemble items for a service project in the gymnasium of Legacy Traditional School in Chandler, Arizona, on Feb. 19, 2022.

Robin Finlinson

When it comes to planning such a large event, Neff said JustServe specialists and members of the Church should not be afraid to reach out to other groups and churches. 

“We are not the only people who serve in our community,” she said. “There is a lot of service going on that is not just us. Come on common ground —  we like to serve, great let’s do it together.”

The results

  • 801 complete snack bags
  • 470 hygiene kits
  • 226 inspirational cards
  • 154 port pillows
  • 20 fidget quilts
  • 8 plarn mats
  • A truckload of children’s clothing

The organizations served

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JustServe volunteers talk together while making inspirational cards for charitable organizations to distribute in Chandler, Arizona, Feb. 19, 2022.

Robin Finlinson

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