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Church works to meet community needs

More than 700 congregants volunteer for “Mormon Helping Hands” day for Santa Clarita Valley clean

Posted: April 25, 2009 8:02 p.m.
Updated: April 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Elijah Bartley, 5, swings his shovel as he helps to plant pine trees at Castaic Lake as part of the Mormon Helping Hands day of service event on Saturday.

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Nine-year-old Brevin Borrowman rolled a paintbrush drenched with bright red paint over a color-faded curb at Castaic Lake on Saturday.

Brevin’s older sister and father worked beside him amidst a swarm of other volunteers touching up their own portion of the curb.

Saugus residents Sandy and Richard Maxson shoveled out a plot of dirt as they helped plant their fourth tree of the morning, also at
Castaic Lake on Saturday.

In Newhall, Ashley Hill helped tape plastic tarp to the outer walls of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center, so fellow volunteers could paint the building’s trim.

United with the common cause of helping the community, those volunteers joined more than 700 local members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for a “Mormon Helping Hands” day.

“I grew up here, but we’re all members of this community. It’s important we all take time to give back to the community,” Hill said.

Twenty-thousand members of the Mormon Church from San Luis Obispo to San Diego set Saturday aside to serve their local communities.

“It is important for us to give back to a community that we love so much,” said Jerry Garns, president of the Valencia stake, which is a division of the church. The Santa Clarita stake and Valencia stake together represent more than 6,000 local church members spread out over 15 congregations.

Gary Larkins, public affairs coordinator for the church, worked with city officials for a year to decide upon 15 projects in 5 locations around the valley for the service day. The hundreds of volunteers of all ages spread out amongst Castaic Lake, the Senior Center, Canyon Country’s Oak Spring Canyon Park, a senior apartment complex and a local wash for projects including painting, planting, cleaning and graffiti removal.

Nona Kellerman, of Newhall, enjoyed seeing church members who don’t necessarily all know each other come together for a common cause.

“There’s people out there that need help and if you’re able-bodied, then do it,” she said.

The Senior Center’s Executive Director Brad Berens said the work the church did at the center would have cost more than $10,000. Two years ago, the church also helped re-paint the building from drab brown to a lighter, more vibrant color.

“We would have put (this painting) off forever to use every penny for direct services,“ he said. “Now with this finished off, we couldn’t be happier. And what a difference it’s going to make to the thousands of people that come here.”

Congressman Buck McKeon was also at Castaic Lake planting trees, ground cover and painting buoys. City councilmembers Laurene Weste, Bob Kellar, and Marsha McLean showed their support by helping at the Senior Center.

“This is a very nice expensive paint job and it’s all (being done by) volunteers,” Weste said. “It shows you how much Santa Clarita cares. It’s showing our love through application of effort.”

“In hard times, it’s the people who have to get out and put the elbow grease in and get done what needs to be done,” Weste added.
Steven Lindberg, Santa Clarita stake president, said this is the first time all Southern California congregations concentrated their service on the same date.

“It was an opportunity to do something for the community and it’s a good experience for the family — to teach them to do community service,” said Aaron Borrowman, of Stevenson Ranch.



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