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JustServe efforts spread across Puerto Rico, with 31 projects, hundreds of volunteers over just 1 day

Caribbean island sees large response to International Day of Service through help of JustServe

On Oct. 28, hundreds of people took part in service projects across the island of Puerto Rico.

Using JustServe — a website and app where nonprofit organizations list service projects and volunteer needs — missionaries and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and their friends served in their communities for the International Day of Service.

There were:

  • 31 service projects
  • 36 wards and branches participating
  • 16 JustServe agencies involved
  • 350+ members and friends participating
  • 113 missionaries participating

The projects included service at nursing homes, schools, food banks and soup kitchens, beach and community cleanup, gardening, sewing, painting, yard work and donating blood.

Alanis Olmo-Jimenez from the Levittown Ward, Toa Baja Puerto Rico Stake, was grateful to take part in two of the service projects.

“The opportunity to serve, when done willingly and intentionally, can transform our perspective on life and contribute to our progress as disciples of Christ,” she said. 

She said she is making time in her life to serve more frequently.

“The JustServe initiative is growing in Puerto Rico, and this past 28th of October is proof of that. ... The chance to serve through local organizations and with nature allowed me to feel more connected with my island and the unique needs of living on one,” she said.

A Catholic nun speaks with two volunteers in Ponce, Puerto Rico.
JustServe volunteers and faith leaders smile as they work together on a project to feed the hungry in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor

Ruth Colon, a social worker at Albergue El Paraíso in San Juan, was thankful for donations of food, clothing, linen and hygiene products and the time the volunteers spent with the people at the shelter.

“We had many beautiful moments on the International Day of Service. The participants behaved in a spiritual way,” she said. “May the Lord continue to guide us to continue supporting those in need of recovery to improve their quality of life.”

Missionaries from the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission took part in multiple projects around the island.

Elder Ethan Collinwood participated in a project with his companion, Elder Sander Guardado.

“Being able to serve on the 28th was such a cool opportunity, knowing that I was serving with a much larger force then just those beside me, and knowing I was actually helping real people around me,” he said. “In my missionary service so far, I’ve been so blessed to be able to serve the people and see the changes a little service can make in their lives.”

A missionary plays a game with residents of a nursing home in Yauco, Puerto Rico.
A missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plays a game with residents of a nursing home in Yauco, Puerto Rico, for the International Day of Service on Saturday, Oct 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor

Sister Gabbie Wardle and Sister Emma Jones wrote:

“We loved being with and helping the people here in Ponce! It was amazing to be united with others serving like Christ would. Service brings so much joy and happiness to both those who receive and give it.” 

Sister Lilian Koch took part in a reforestation project with the group Para La Naturaleza (For Nature) and planted new trees in Aibonito to replace vegetation destroyed in hurricanes.

“It’s always a treat to be outside in nature, admiring God’s creations,” Sister Koch said. “As we planted trees, nurtured seeds, and learned of the climate and natural vegetation of Puerto Rico, I gained a better awareness of the privilege we have to be stewards of the earth.” 

Her companion Sister Mya Harbach wrote about the project: “It was such a privilege to be apart of something so special to the island and I am so grateful for the volunteers who work for this organization and for their kindness.”  

JustServe volunteers work in a plant nursery in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico.
JustServe volunteers work in a plant nursery during the International Day of Service in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico, on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor

JustServe in Puerto Rico

Elder Wilford Taylor and Sister Sharla Taylor from Mesa, Arizona, began serving in the Puerto Rico San Juan Mission in September 2022 with the calling to start up the JustServe initiative on the island.

They work alongside members and missionaries in service projects. They also visit organizations, agencies and churches to tell them about the service platform and help them sign up.

When the planning began for this year’s International Day of Service, each ward and branch on the island was invited to have a service project on that day. The Taylors knew JustServe could be a part of it — they said and it was a great success.

Elder Wilford Taylor and Sister Sharla Taylor and President Edgardo L. Cartagena visit the YMCA of San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Elder Wilford Taylor and Sister Sharla Taylor, left, join President Edgardo L. Cartagena, the second counselor in the Caguas Puerto Rico Stake presidency, in a visit to the YMCA of San Juan, Puerto Rico, in October 2023. | Elder Wilford Taylor

Agencies who were not using JustServe regularly before the day of service now have had experience with it and have seen the fruits, said Sister Taylor.

“Everyone is really accepting of this wonderful program,” she said.

Each stake in Puerto Rico now has a JustServe specialist, who helped the wards choose agencies to help on the day of service, said Elder Taylor.

“We recognize the special effort of the stake presidencies, and ward and branch leaders to help make this a wonderful day of service,” he said.

Elder Taylor said the experience has been life-changing to meet organizations in Puerto Rico who carry out their mission to love and serve others in their community.

“JustServe is joining people together to love and serve each other as Jesus did in His mission on the earth,” he said.

See more photos below from the International Day of Service in Puerto Rico.

Four sister missionaries visit with an older woman in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.
Missionaries visit with and cut hair for older residents of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, during a service project on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
JustServe volunteers and missionaries visit with older residents of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.
JustServe volunteers and missionaries visit with older residents of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, during a service project on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
JustServe volunteers donate water and food in Coamo, Puerto Rico.
JustServe volunteers donate water and food in Coamo, Puerto Rico, for the International Day of Service on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
JustServe volunteers and members of the Church show the cancer port pillows they sewed in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
JustServe volunteers and members of the Church show the cancer port pillows they sewed on the International Day of Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Elder Wilford Taylor
Volunteers sew around a table in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
JustServe volunteers and members of the Church sew cancer port pillows on the International Day of Service in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
JustServe volunteers take part in a gardening project in Manati, Puerto Rico.
Elder Wilford Taylor and Sister Sharla Taylor, second and third from left, join other JustServe volunteers in a gardening project in Manati, Puerto Rico, for the International Day of Service on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
Around 20 missionaries wearing yellow Helping Hands shirts take part in a service project in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Missionaries take part in a service project in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
Members of the Church wear yellow Helping Hands shirts for a service project in Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Members of the Church take part in a service project in Caguas, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | Provided by Elder Wilford Taylor
Around a dozen missionaries and volunteers hold wheelbarrows during a service project in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico.
President Edgardo L. Cartagena, the second counselor in the Caguas Puerto Rico Stake presidency, takes a selfie with the group of missionaries and JustServe volunteers taking part in a service project for the International Day of Service in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. | President Edgardo L. Cartagena
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