Missionaries volunteer 10K-plus hours to help feed the San Jose community

A success theory once postulated 10,000 hours as being “the magic number of greatness.”

While the “10,000-Hour Rule” is typically associated with personal development, that mythical time tally still holds deep significance for the elders and sisters serving in the California San Jose Mission — and for many of the people they serve. 

Just a few days before Thanksgiving, the California San Jose missionaries surpassed 10,000 hours volunteering at one of the United State’s largest food banks. 

Their ongoing volunteer service at Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, which began during the COVID-19 pandemic, is part of the Church’s JustServe initiative. (Latter-day Saints in the San Jose area have volunteered at the food bank for over a year.)

The goal of this particular JustServe project is simple: help feed people left vulnerable by the ongoing health crisis..

“Every time we volunteer, we see people become happier,” said Elder Brandon Ledkins of American Fork, Utah.

His companion, Elder Sterling Hasek of Cumming, Georgia, said the joy found working alongside others in the community “is something I look forward to doing even after my mission.”

Elders and sisters from the California San Jose Mission stand outside the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley facility. The missionaries have donated more than 10,000 volunteer hours to help provide food for Bay Area people in need.
Elders and sisters from the California San Jose Mission stand outside the Second Harvest of Silicon Valley facility. The missionaries have donated more than 10,000 volunteer hours to help provide food for Bay Area people in need. Credit: San Jose California South Stake Facebook page

For Elders Ledkins and Hasek, along with their fellow California San Jose missionaries, 10,000 volunteer hours marked a milestone, not a destination. The Second Harvest of Silicon Valley/JustServe project continues, with missionaries performing about 600 volunteer hours each week.

“Five of the 11 zones in our mission have the privilege of serving at Second Harvest,” said California San Jose Mission President Gary Smith. “It has been phenomenal.”

President Smith estimates about half of the people in California’s Bay Area have been personally affected, in some way, by COVID-19. Many have been infected with the virus. Others have lost jobs or been furloughed.

As a result, a sizable number of residents are food-vulnerable and in need of the resources provided by Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. 

“They are having significant struggles just taking care of their basic needs,” said President Smith.

Working weekday shifts and adhering to pandemic-era safety practices, the California San Jose missionaries perform a variety of tasks ranging from sorting and boxing food at the Second Harvest warehouse facility to distributing goods to individual families.

The partnership between the California San Jose Mission and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley began several months ago as a project facilitated by JustServe, the Church-operated online initiative that links volunteers of all backgrounds with vetted organization and service projects designed to assist people in need within their own communities.

Read more: How the Church’s JustServe initiative offers a unifying remedy for the divisive ills of the day

“We felt like we could answer a need,” said President Smith of the service project. “We started with a much smaller group, and it’s risen significantly over time.”

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley CEO Leslie Bacho told the Church News the massive, ongoing volunteer effort by the missionaries “has been critical to our pandemic response.”

Elders from the California San Jose Mission sort produce at the Second Harvest at Silicon Valley food bank. The food will be distributed to people in need across the San Jose region,.
Elders from the California San Jose Mission sort produce at the Second Harvest at Silicon Valley food bank. The food will be distributed to people in need across the San Jose region,. Credit: Photo by Tom Walker

COVID-19 exacted a dramatic toll on traditional volunteer pool at the food bank. And when they were needed most, the missionaries answered the call to serve.

“They are also just a delight to work with,” said Bacho. “Our staff is thrilled to have the missionaries as part of our operation”

One key element of the JustServe initiative is providing full-time missionaries with opportunities to serve in their assigned communities during hours when traditional missionary work is often less fruitful. 

For many young elders and sisters worldwide, JustServe projects have been proven remedies for homesickness, anxiety and other challenges that can be byproducts of the pandemic.

The Second Harvest opportunity, observed President Smith, “has really elevated the spirits of the missionaries. … This service has been tremendous in helping them feel complete. They know they are serving the Lord as they serve His people.”

No surprise, the Second Harvest/Just Serve partnership has, well, harvested new friendships for the Church. There is increased trust and understanding across the greater San Jose community. 

Recent feature stories about the missionary volunteer efforts with Second Harvest of Silicon Valley have been highlighted on local English- and Spanish-language television news.