School campuses are usually quiet on Saturdays; but on October 26th, volunteers headed to schools all around the east side of Tucson to clean, rake, paint and do some landscaping. The reason? It was “Make a Difference Day”—a day of service sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Over 700 members of the Church were joined by students from the University of Arizona, the Eller School of Business, and Tucson Magnet High School. They went in groups to schools from Tanque Verde, Tucson Unified and Vail districts. They painted walls, doors and fences; they cleaned and fixed up playgrounds; they rerocked washes to prevent erosion; and some even laid concrete sidewalks.
John Nunes, Assistant Director of Transportation for the Vail School District, had reported that many of the district’s vans, cars and busses are not regularly cleaned and were in dire need of attention. One group of volunteers took on that task, scrubbing the vehicles inside and out.
Another grou— including parents, youth, and children—went to Senita Valley Elementary School and planted 10 trees and 15 shrubs to provide shade to a playground. They also cleaned up an overgrown flower bed, turning it into a vegetable and herb garden for the science class, and did some masonry repair. Principal Connie Erickson stated, “We feel like your church has adopted our school.”
Three community residents who were not members of any of the organized groups joined the work party. One of them, Susanna, had received help from the Saguaro Park Ward Elders Quorum earlier this year when her house in Mesquite Ranch flooded during a monsoon storm. She felt a desire to help with the project at Senita Valley Elementary as, “the only right thing to do is to return a favor with another favor. And if there is an opportunity to help, absolutely the commitment is there.”
Service of this kind does more than spruce up surroundings; it touches hearts.
Phil Simon, a Church member said, “I love it! I always love to serve!”
Youth leader Ryan Andrus exclaimed, “Awesome! It’s awesome to serve!”
Fourteen-year-old Katelyn Weinzinger commented, “It’s fun and enjoyable because I get to do things most people don’t get to do, and hang out with my friends.”
“We are here to help serve the community…to build community relations, and build something for the school[s],” said Bishop Ralph Beeston of the Saguaro Park Ward. “Helping is part of life, and it’s rewarding for [everyone].
From a personal standpoint, he added, “I like to have my family working with me. It’s a joy …. They learn a lot and experience a lot. They learn how to accomplish things on a budget. I can’t lift all the weight by myself, so I am glad they are here to help.”
Over all, the 753 volunteers accomplished a total of 3,012 hours of service. That may add up to a lot of sore muscles, but it also adds up to a lot of warm hearts.