How JustServe is helping Utah Valley residents come together to serve those in need

Youth, families and people of various faiths are using JustServe to serve with their communities

As Orem, Utah, JustServe specialist Val Hale observed volunteers at a food drive in early September 2023, a father approached him thanking him for giving his family an opportunity to serve. Ninety minutes was just perfect for his family, the man told Hale, allowing them to serve and then continue with their normal Saturday schedule.

The man and his family are some of many people in the Utah Valley finding ways to serve with their community through JustServe.

9/11 National Day of Service

Latter-day Saint youth cleaning up avalanche debris at Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, Utah.
Latter-day Saint youth clean up avalanche debris at Bridal Veil Falls, Provo Canyon, on Sept. 9, 2023. | Val Hale

The food drive was one of several projects organized by the City of Orem and promoted through JustServe in recognition of the 9/11 National Day of Service. While honoring those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, the Day of Service encouraged people across the country, including Utah Valley, to put aside their differences to assist those in need.

Stakes of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Orem have participated in the Day of Service for several years, but most usually organized their own projects. Some, however, would ask the city if it had service opportunities available. In 2023, Orem community services manager Kena Mathews received calls like this from stake leaders in the area. Given the amount of interest, she contacted Hale, who serves on the Church’s Orem Central Coordinating Council — which includes representatives from different stakes around the city — and they organized a meeting between stake and community leaders to coordinate Day of Service projects.

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The city decided to organize multiple projects throughout the area and provide the tools and logistics. Orem stakes, meanwhile, took responsibility for gathering volunteers for the projects they signed up for. Hale posted the service opportunities on JustServe. 

Among the projects were cleanups at Bridal Veil Falls, Mt. Timpanogos Park and the All-Together Playground on Sept. 9, 2023.

While some stakes completed their own projects, all participated in the citywide food and eyeglasses drive conducted through Charity Vision and Community Action Services and Food Bank. Organizers held the drive a week prior to the Day of Service on Aug. 26 to allow community members to participate in multiple projects.

People of all ages and abilities

Bins containing donations made to the 2023 Orem, Utah 9/11 National Day of Service food drive on Aug. 26, 2023. Over 40,000 pounds of food was collected.
More than 40,000 pounds of food were collected during the 9/11 National Day of Service food drive in Orem, Utah, on Aug. 26, 2023. | Val Hale

Hale was encouraged to see a wide range of people participate in the food and eyeglasses drive, from young children to the elderly.

Many young people who learned about the drive through JustServe helped collect donations from local meetinghouses.

“It was fun to see their enthusiasm and excitement,” Hale said.

Watching youth and families serve together recalled memories of his family helping harvest fruit at Church welfare farms when he was a child. Since welfare assignments like that are no longer common, he feels that before JustServe it was harder for many Latter-day Saints to find service opportunities.

“Anytime now that we have an opportunity to get out and serve,” said Hale, “I think it’s a real valuable thing for our families and for us as individuals.”

An elementary school student from Provo found out about the eyeglasses drive and began collecting glasses from his classmates. On the day of the drive, he arrived with 52 pairs.

By the end of the day, 3-4 large boxes of used eyeglasses were collected. The lenses would be replaced with new lenses for people in third world countries. 

The drive also collected 42,000 pounds of food, more than twice the 16,000 pounds collected in 2022. So much was collected that organizers ran out of bins and had to get more. 

Interfaith and Inter Community Relations

Volunteers painting a piece of equipment at the All-Together Playground in Orem, Utah, for the 9/11 National Day of Service.
Volunteers paint equipment at the All-Together Playground in Orem, Utah, on Sept. 9, 2023. | Val Hale

Hale and Mathews credit the surge in donations to the greater involvement of local stakes as well as local businesses and other community organizations. 

But Mathews also credits JustServe, not only for increasing involvement, but also for helping fuel better community relations overall.

As a former nonprofit director and current housing director for Community Action in Provo, she says nonprofits across the board are using JustServe to find volunteers.

Recently, when her own Protestant congregation in Provo urgently needed volunteers for an event, they used JustServe. Within two days they had all the people they needed.

She says collaborative efforts like the 9/11 Day of Service food drive break barriers between people of different backgrounds. She notes the importance of that benefit in communities like Orem where many individuals participate with one religion.

“I think people that are not part of that religion often feel like they’re not part of something,” she said.

Hale says it’s important that Latter-day Saints find ways to serve outside their individual wards.

“We all live in communities, we are part of our communities … we need to be engaged in what’s happening in our communities,” said Hale, “So, let’s make our community a better place to live. Let’s be part of the process.”

For those wanting to do more service in the new year, Hale encourages them to first, set a goal to be more engaged in their community and, second, download the JustServe app and check it regularly.

“Make a habit of it,” said Hale, “and find something that you would like to do and a way you’d like to make a difference for an organization and for some people.”

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