Meet Alice. I first noticed her, from a distance, behind the lens of my camera. The light in her eyes immediately caught my attention. I couldn't resist taking her picture. When she noticed me, she was initially embarrassed, and explained that she was too old and no longer considered beautiful. I expressed my feelings about the light that I saw in her eyes and how that, to me, is true beauty. Oh what a wonderful visit we then had.

I ♥ Alice.

I've been involved with planning my own area's Mormon Helping Hands Day of Service, here in Murrieta, California -- now three years. It's been a rewarding experience to see members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) reach out to our community to bless the lives of many we don't regularly associate with. Prior to this year we've worked with Habitat for Humanity, United Way and a local home for troubled teens. But this year, for me, it was a very different experience.

With the LDS Church emphasis on social media, on a broad scale, they've now incorporated its use on the local level. Alongside of my calling in primary, teaching the 9-12 year-old girls, I serve on our stake Public Affairs Counsel, over media relations -- and now, social media. Perfect! : )

The North America West Mormon Helping Hands social media team, here in California, really took this opportunity seriously. Matthew Stringer, a social media guru, was brought on board by Mormon Helping Hands California, to spearhead this effort. He's a great guy and really helped to provide excellent training, via Webinars, leading up to the April 28, 2012 event -- and I took that training to heart.

It was suggested that leading up to the event the social media specialist (that would be me) might want to go out to the project site(s) to take pictures and shoot video. We could then share this 'media' with our stake and local media outlets -- to introduce them to our project, and encourage participation and local coverage. So I did.

Promo Video: Mormons, Methodists and Catholics Join Forces to Fight Hunger
(Very amateur video I shot but nicely edited by Chad LeBaron)

Two weeks prior to our city-wide food drive, to collect food donations for two local churches in my community, St. Martha's Catholic Church and Murrieta United Methodist Church, I decided to visit the food pantries of each, to see how they operate and meet the directors. Little did I know that these good people, their dedicated volunteers, and those who they lovingly serve, weekly, would wiggle their way into the depths of my heart.  But they did. And that is how I met Alice.

Between these two community food pantries, I learned that they serve over 630 families every week.  The two pantries are run completely different. One is a large operation that works closely with the city, to obtain much needed grant money, in order to purchase large amounts of food -- for the nearly 500 families they serve, weekly. This requires them to obtain documented information from the families that they assist. The other, serving approximately 130 families each week, with no financial aid -- only the goodness of local citizens, and businesses, to keep their doors open. I spent two days, each, visiting the pantries. One day to see the facility, the other to watch them in action. A total of four mornings that week.

It turned out to the the best week ever. Getting up every morning, knowing that I would be rubbing shoulders with so many wonderful people, who from the bottom of their hearts, truly care for the needy in my community, brought a smile to my face, and a gratitude to my soul, that has remained with me. Meeting so many of the recipients of such Christlike service, taught me about humility. That's how I fell in love with Alice, and many others just like her. It was a beautiful exchange to witness.

I can't get Dennis out of my mind. Dennis was at the food pantry on Friday morning. That's the day of the week where food is distributed to the needy. He was sitting in his wheelchair waiting for his turn to receive. They go by lottery numbers. He had to wait quite a while on this particular day. I happen to come upon him as I was, from a distance, taking pictures.

Screen shot from video
At first I felt uncomfortable -- like an intruder. I came to understand the sacredness of feeding the hungry. I put my camera behind my back and introduced myself to Dennis. I told him I was from the Mormon Church. He had heard all about 'us' and what we were doing with the upcoming food drive. He immediately began our conversation by telling me that he used to date a Mormon girl when he was a young man.  Dennis was, I suspect, in his 70's. He then proceeded to tell me about his little girl, who died when she was three -- as tears welled up in his eyes. I couldn't stop myself from telling him what I believed about life after death -- and my testimony that he would see his little girl again. We had a fairly lengthy conversation -- until his number was called. I couldn't help but think that this was no chance meeting.

I was now connected to our Mormon Helping Hands city-wide food drive, in a way that I didn't expect. And even though I was actually out of town on the day of the event, I was involved with it, every minute. Throughout the morning I was receiving real time pictures and video from volunteers, via SMS, and then would use my expert social media skills (ha-ha) to broadcast via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram -- what was happening throughout our #dayofservice in Murrieta.

I can't tell you how many times, when certain pictures would come through, that my eyes would tear up just knowing what a blessing this food would be to so many people in my community. People that I had come to love -- and see.

As one who gets really excited about the power of social media to share the gospel, I was especially moved by the way in which we can tell a story through its use, that helps others connect to something powerful and important. We tend to serve those, best, whom we are connected. When we are connected, we have loved.

Video: Delivery to Murrieta United Methodist Church Food Pantry
Credit: Donal Pearce

The Murrieta Stake connected with our community in a beautiful, interfaith, day of service. Over 630 volunteers turned out, many donning bright yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests. 15,000 food items were collected and donated to two community food pantries -- as a total of 1,800 service hours were given. It was a huge success as an event, but even more important, our community better knows that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a church that bears His name -- reached out to emulate His teachings.

Volunteers at one of three registration sites on day of event
Photo Credit: Terina Matthews

Kathryn Skaggs

Murrieta Stake Facebook Page: For more great pics of our Mormon Helping Hands Day of Service

MurrietaHelpingHands on YouTube

Murrieta Patch: Volunteers in the News - City-wide Food Drive Planned

Press Enterprise: MURRIETA: Three churches unite for citywide food drive

Mormon Helping Hands: Fix Up, Clean Up, Build It in California and Hawaii

Deseret News: Odds and Ends: LDS volunteers continue to serve

The Californian: Serving others

Continue reading at the original source →