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October 24, 2014

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Teenagers learn to be good citizens on LDS Day of Service

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Brian Nordli

Teens at the Green Valley Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints assemble wooden toys to be donated to charity for their Day of Service community project on Saturday.

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A group of teenagers paint and assemble wooden toy giraffes and elephants among other animals that will then be donated to charity as part of their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Day of Service community project on Saturday.

More than 700 Las Vegas Valley teenagers swarmed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints campus in Green Valley on Saturday morning.

Paint-splattered teens hunched over rows of tables in the parking lot while assembling wooden toy giraffes, elephants, ducks and airplanes. Others slipped multicolored beads onto a plastic wire that would soon turn into a keychain gecko. Inside, one group collected books and cans, another sewed blankets and another made pillowcases.

Each teenager darted around the church with a different job to do, but they all had a singular goal: to help those in need on the LDS Day of Service, a day designated for LDS teens to dedicate their time to a community project.

“We started out with games, but when we brought them together to start projects, we told them the ultimate prize is not winning but being prize-like by shining in the community and those surrounding you,” said Patti Peterson, who helped organize the event. “We’re trying to teach them to be good citizens.”

Peterson said it was the first time all of the participating teenagers gathered in a central location to complete their Day of Service, which made it a special event. Organizers randomly assigned each teen a number that determined what project they’d work on. Peterson said they were eager to help regardless of which job they were assigned.

“They like to be together. It’s the camaraderie and socialization,” Peterson said. “They like to see the strength in numbers.”

Madison Shepherd, 16, spent her time crafting wooden toys. Her hands were covered in black and yellow paint as she assembled her second toy — a yellow and orange giraffe. Shepherd said she enjoyed the chance to meet new people and didn’t mind the work.

Pale Lalu and Jotasen Funaki were assigned to the sewing room to make blankets. Neither had much interest in sewing, but knowing they would be giving these blankets to children battling cancer changed their minds.

“It was a fun experience. I’ve never made (a blanket) before,” Lalu said. “It was fun doing it as a group knowing it’ll go to somebody that needs it.”

There was a learning curve, though.

“Our group, we had mostly boys, so we had to have some girls show us how to sew,” Funaki said with a grin.

In four hours, the teenagers made 82 pillowcases, 250 wooden toys, 500 beaded geckos and six quilts. They also collected 1,600 books and 500 cans of food. Those toys and goods will be donated to charities in Southern Nevada and abroad.

“We are very grateful for all Southern Nevada has given to us as a community, so this was an opportunity for us to get together with large group of youths and leaders to be able to give back,” said Russell Peterson, Henderson and Eldorado stake president. “... We’re grateful for all those who participated and all they’ve done."

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  1. How nice for them to have a day of gathering together to produce something to help others outside the LDS community.

    I remember how life changing it was for me, as a teen, to spend time visiting other teens that were severely disabled, and elderly residents of nursing homes. It taught me so much respect for others who suffered from conditions I could not imagine before spending time with them. It is so rewarding to make friends with those I visited. It sensitizes one to the human condition and the causes and effects. Sometimes I felt they helped me more than I helped them.

    I have never forgotten those experiences, and continued serving in some capacity through my life because of what I learned. It changed on how I saw the world as well.

    Teens should always be encouraged to spend time helping others, and learning the reality of what life brings, sometime through negligence, other times from injustice, and still other times from nature. Meeting people in need face to face is difficult, but should be part of our growth process.

    This LDS exercise was a preliminary exercise that I hope will progress further into more challenging growth experiences.