For Cache Valley residents who would like to be involved with service in the community but aren’t sure where to start, they need not look farther than JustServe.org, a free website that allows individuals to find service opportunities with nonprofit, faith, community and government organizations.
JustServe is a way to “just serve,” connecting volunteers to their community by finding opportunities to serve geared toward their specific abilities and time available for service. The service, provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, encourages organizations to post their volunteer needs as well as to encourage individuals to sign up to help out.
In one of their recent undertakings, JustServe co-sponsored a local food drive. Cache Valley residents joined together in chilly, pouring rain for the Cache Community Food Pantry in Logan on March 20. JustServe partnered with various nonprofit organizations, including Cache Community Food Pantry. Volunteers showed up to help sort and put the food in boxes.
Matt Whitaker, Director of Cache Community Food Pantry, said over 105,000 pounds of canned goods, dry products such as flour, cereal, rice, baking mixes, and hygiene items were donated to the 14 collection sites throughout the valley. The boxes were picked up by Search and Rescue teams who took the food to the Logan Center.
“This is our first event that was spearheaded by the Utah Food Bank and the LDS Church. We hope it to be an annual event,” Whitaker said.
A non-profit organization, Cache Community Food Pantry registered on JustServe six years ago as they needed volunteers.
They have a continual need for sorting food into categories, repackaging large amounts — like a 50-pound bag of popcorn into quart-size bags — building food orders, and filling backpacks with breakfast meals, lunch items, trail mix and granola bars weekly for the ‘Still Cool After School’ Program for the elementary school children to take home on the weekend.
“We are so grateful for the JustServe organization, as it is a place where people can go to see what is available for opportunities to serve. It cuts out a lot of work for people looking for places to serve,” said Whitaker, who is one of the two paid staff at the food pantry.
When asked how many volunteers were involved with the event, Whitaker estimated there were easily over a thousand volunteers who showed up just for the food drive.
“I recognize their sacrifice donating their time, as well as of all those volunteers who help us throughout the year. I’m also grateful to the community for their generous donations,” Whitaker said. “We can’t do it all.”
The cold and rain didn’t stop Carole Holland and her husband, Dan, from participating as volunteers at the Smithfield Civic Center, one of the 14 food collection centers for the valley-wide food drive for the Cache Community Food Pantry.
“It was so fun to be involved with others working together on this project,” she said.
Several years ago, Holland had her first introduction to JustServe as Smithfield South Stake Relief Society President through a training meeting with Gary and Diane Andersen, the JustServe Coordinating Council Specialists for north Cache Valley.
“JustServe allows me to learn what opportunities and needs are out there and to see what skills, time and resources I have to fill those needs,” Holland said. The women of her church group have since helped assemble hygiene kits and backpacks for the Little Lambs and other organizations in the valley.
“I just felt happy to be doing something and feel love and joy when I’m serving,” she added.
“One of our goals with JustServe is to help people know there are many opportunities to serve our neighbors right here in our towns and cities in Cache Valley,” said Ann Geary, who, with her husband, Dave, works as the Coordinating Council Specialist for the Cache Valley South Area. “JustServe can help individuals, families, and youth church groups find projects that are the right “fit” for them.”
“One of the things I love about JustServe is that it helps non-profit organizations and volunteers get together,” said Ann. “Despite the shut-down of many in-person volunteer opportunities due to COVID, JustServe has still been able to help non-profit organizations meet needs in the community by helping volunteers know of projects they can do at home or via telephone.”
JustServe projects run the gamut from big events like Summerfest and marathons, to putting together hygiene kits, sewing at home, or helping nonprofits with yard work, Ann said.
Gary said volunteers only need to have a spare hour or two to help out, and opportunities for service are available to all kinds of groups.
“It is a way for employers to take their employees to work on projects together,” Gary said. “It’s also a great way to take your family to work on a service project, or for a family reunion to have a service activity together.”
JustServe is also partnered with local schools and nonprofit organizations to provide critical needs in the community, namely Socks for the Soul, who collects and distributes socks for the homeless. There are COVID-19 and handicapped opportunities that can be done from home such as transcribing names and dates from headstones shown by photos so people can find the records digitally.
Logan nonprofit Little Lambs Foundation For Kids has been utilizing the JustServe program since 2014. JustServe started helping out by collecting items for their foster care Comfort Kit Program as well as helping collect hygiene items for the family hygiene kits.
“We have received amazing help for our foundation over the past six years with JustServe. We feel extremely blessed with all of the volunteers and their donations,” said Little Lambs Executive Director Ted Chalfant.
Little Lambs provides comfort kits for children who are transitioning into foster care. The comfort kits include items like blankets, plush animals, books, activities, hygiene items, toothbrushes, toothpaste, socks, notebooks, and toys. The Little Lambs Diaper Bank, started in 2018, has been a cornerstone in helping local families that are struggling financially with helping provide a supplemental amount of diapers, wipes, hygiene items and formula, if available.
In 2020, over 800 thousand diapers were distributed to families in need. Little Lambs receives donations of diapers, wipes, formula, and full-sized body wash for children and adults.
“Little Lambs Foundation is only possible through the charitable support from individual organizations, corporate sponsors and public donations,” Chalfant said. “JustServe has been an amazing partner to help people know our needs. JustServe is so helpful to provide volunteers when the need arises.”
Through JustServe, women in the North Logan Green Canyon Stake Relief Society have helped contribute to Little Lambs. About four years ago, Stake Relief Society President Mary Bodily heard about JustServe and looked at their website.
“After reviewing the different projects that needed help, our stake Relief Society presidency decided to participate and invite other neighbors to join in,” Bodily said. “We organized a group that met at the church building once a month.”
They crocheted and loomed hats, crocheted around baby blankets and burp cloths, tied quilts, crocheted afghans, painted wooden toys, and made hospital dolls. Those items were delivered to Little Lambs, Toys for Tots, Lifting Hands, the Cancer Center and hospitals in Logan. They also assembled hygiene kits for the homeless that were also delivered to the Marine Corps League. One hundred backpacks filled with school supplies were taken to the Cache Refugee Center.
“We organized these projects for two reasons: To give people a place to contribute their time and talents by serving others; and to provide a means for people to connect with one another while serving,” Bodily said. “We have seen many rewards and made many new friends as we have come together to work on projects that will help others in our community and throughout the world.”
After COVID-19 hit, the group made over 11,000 masks and 100 protective gowns for local care centers in Cache Valley. Even though they stopped meeting in person, Bodily kept supplies at her home and distributed them to those who wanted to keep working on items at their own home.
“We have just kept going, and finding new projects,” Bodily said.