Relief Society Women Serve Ahead of Organization’s 180th Anniversary

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Women respond to the invitation of the Relief Society general presidency to serve during the month leading up to the 180th anniversary of the founding of the organization. And as they do, their lives change.

“Serving strengthens your love for your neighbor and gives you the opportunity to show it,” said Shelly Olivier of the Longmont Colorado Stake. “It strengthens you and makes you stronger and you can bring that extra spirit and strength home.”

The invitation was to create an account on ServeNow.org, find a project in the community, and complete it with someone you love. ServeNow is a website and app that connects community organizations with volunteers.

In areas where ServeNow is not yet active, women were encouraged to lead a local service project and post about it using the hashtag #JustServe.

The Relief Society was founded on March 17, 1842, in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Read more: Relief Society Celebrates 179 Years: President Bingham’s Message to Women, Including Those Who Doubt a Place in the Church

Many acts of service

Some wards and stakes met for service activities in March. Others have already done so. ServeNow UK’s social media accounts have posted stories about women collecting supplies for refugees in Eastern Europe. The Winston-Salem North Carolina Stake posted on Facebook collecting school supplies to donate to Catholic charities to benefit refugee families. The Gastonia North Carolina Stake also posted their stake women’s conference on Facebook on February 19, where members also collected and assembled items for the refugees.

Women in Wills Point, Texas, sew clothes for a non-profit organization that benefits families who have lost their babies. The service project was part of a Relief Society activity.

“It was amazing to see so many women coming together, organizing drives…and working side by side,” wrote Jennifer Lawrence, president of the Gastonia Stake Relief Society, “Everyone did their part.”

A group from Pocatello, Idaho posted about volunteering at the Idaho Food Bank on Feb. 23, filling emergency food bags and sorting nearly 1,300 pounds of food. Another post, from Wills Point, Texas, showed how the Relief Society “filled an entire gym with sewing machines” as it worked to make clothes for a charity that supports families who have lost their baby. “We are grateful for all the time, talents and hard work to bless the community,” the post read.

Other women are posting individually this month on their local service. For example, Olivier went with his cousin Sara Strong to sort and store donations for the victims of December’s massive fire in Boulder County, Colorado.

“I was a little nervous, because I didn’t know exactly what to expect,” Olivier told Church News. “They had a lot of work for us. We clean the shelves on which we hang clothes. They would pull out a box of donation items like shampoos and preserves and other beauty and health care items, and we would set them up like we were filling a store. Then we went to the bedding area and folded the sheets, arranged them, and labeled them.

The Winston-Salem North Carolina Stake Relief Society collected school supplies to fill 70 backpacks to deliver to Catholic charities for refugee families in February 2022.
The Winston-Salem North Carolina Stake Relief Society collected school supplies to fill 70 backpacks to deliver to Catholic charities for refugee families in February 2022.

She had thought that young women in her neighborhood might tie up blankets for fire victims as a service activity. But she noticed that the donation center already had plenty of blankets, when most people really needed things like sheets and bath mats, or hypoallergenic products. She reminded them to look at needs first and then to see how best to serve people.

Olivier is considering signing up for another shift to volunteer at the donation center again and hopes to bring a sister-in-law or friend with her.

In Hawaii, Valérie-Mae Manoa volunteers in her community every Saturday. She is also the ServeNow Area Specialist for the Islands. She tries to let others know about service projects they can do near or far.

“You can only encourage people to participate in ServeNow if you do it yourself,” Manoa said. “You get that spirit that the Lord wants you to get, or the Lord wants to share with you about what it’s like to serve.”

Relief Society and ServeNow Work Together

Janette Knight, president of the Boise Idaho Amity Stake Relief Society, said service is a priority for her stake.

“Any time we can get together is great,” he said. Knight shared how his stake holds a ServeNow Open House each year, bringing together local projects and inviting the community. He held one last month and 400 people came.

“We held it in February to help people through the winter blues,” she said, “but then, seeing the new challenge, I encouraged the sisters in the stake with their activities to include a service project. If they can’t think of something, we send them to ServeNow. »

A flyer for the Boise Idaho Amity Stake Open House on February 3, 2022. The open house allowed the community to see different service projects listed on ServeNow.org.
A flyer for the Boise Idaho Amity Stake Open House on February 3, 2022. The open house allowed the community to see different service projects listed on ServeNow.org.

Knight said he completed 10 projects in two hours during the ServeNow Open House, with something for every age. Since then, other stake Relief Society presidents have asked her about it. She said having a task force or specialist at ServeNow is a key first step.

Some regions don’t know what to put on ServeNow, he said, or don’t know what projects to do. But it starts with connections in the community. “You have to reach out and look at your community. We have a spreadsheet in our workgroup, listing our connections and who we interact with, and it’s spreading. »

Within a month of making the spreadsheet, Knight said 125 projects were listed on ServeNow in the Boise area.

Even before the invitation of the Relief Society general presidency, but especially since then, Manoa has held more training meetings for stakes in Hawaii on the use of ServeNow. She and her husband, Brian Manoa, also meet with community organizations and tell them about the website.

“There are people who think that as Latter-day Saints we only serve our own people,” he said. “It made me want to go out there and talk to members of the community so they know who we are, that our reach of service is bigger than the walls of our home and our chapel.”

“Charity never fails”

Knight said that as she prepares for the 180th anniversary of the Relief Society, she has reflected on the purpose of the organization and what it means to her.

“It means relief and support for others, a way to connect and know there are other people on your side,” she said. “It’s not just the Sunday nuns, it’s the nuns in your area, it’s all the women. They need to meet that support group and that relief is there for them.

Women collected hundreds of North Carolina refugee hygiene kits as part of the Gastonia North Carolina Stake Women's Conference on February 19, 2022.
Women collected hundreds of North Carolina refugee hygiene kits as part of the Gastonia North Carolina Stake Women’s Conference on February 19, 2022.

Relief Society is the largest and one of the oldest women’s organizations in the world. Its motto is “Charity never fails”. Moroni 7:47 says, “Charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endures forever; and whoever possesses it at the last day, it will be good for him.

Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, wrote in February: “Relief Society sisters have enormous potential to do good in the world. Join us this month in celebrating 180 years of Relief Society serving our local communities. »

And Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said she too would serve: “What better way to honor your mission to spread the pure love of Jesus Christ to the world than by joining a service project in your community?

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