Whether it is reading to a desperately ill child in a hospital, helping after a natural disaster or simply keeping community facilities in good shape, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe they have a personal obligation to assist those around them. Much of this work is carried out under the umbrella of the Mormon Helping Hands program.
By participating in Helping Hands projects around the globe, members of the Church not only strengthen others in need, whether of the same faith or of other religious backgrounds, but also develop the compassion that Jesus Christ himself exhibited. Church members are amongst the greatest contributors of volunteer hours in local communities.
In the Newcastle area of NSW, Maitland's skate park and the Melford Railroad Station have received a much needed face-lift, due to a recent clean-up undertaken by local Mormon volunteers.
Church families, friends and Mormon missionaries were led in their clean-up efforts by Bishop Pita Tupou of the Maitland Ward (congregation). Within a few hours, they had filled a box trailer with recyclable and general waste materials which were then taken to the local waste transfer station.
"Being active participants and contributors to our local communities is something we can do to show others that we care for them and for our area. By offering a helping hand even in small ways we can make a big difference," said Bishop Tupou.
The Newcastle clean-up was part of an annual National Helping Hands day observed throughout Australia by members of the Church. These initiatives are held globally, often in emergency situations, but also as part of continuing efforts. Members quickly assemble, put on their yellow Helping Hands vests and assist after catastrophes, such as after the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy in New York state recently.
Other areas of New South Wales also have been greatly benefited by the work of Mormon volunteers.
The Campbelltown City Council and the Macarthur stake (diocese) of the Church recently joined efforts in a Helping Hands initiative to restore the beauty of a local park that is enjoyed extensively by families and children.
City Councillor, Anoulack Chanthivong said, "I was very impressed by how the Latter-day Saint volunteers responded to our request for assistance." He expressed his appreciation by hosting a Helping Hands reception at the Civic Centre for Macarthur stake members at the conclusion of the project.
The Macarthur Ward choir performed at the reception and attendees were able to enjoy a photo display of Helping Hands events held over the years as well as renew the friendly relationship shared between Church members and the Council.
Sixty-five pairs of helping hands from the Liverpool 3rd [Tongan] ward community of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, turned up at Haigh Park, Moorebank, a suburb of Sydney. The park sits alongside Georges River. With cleavers in hand and a strong community spirit, one group of volunteers attacked the hip-high grass that had entrenched some areas of the riverside.
While this hard work was undertaken, another group scouted the park and dragged away bags of collected rubbish. Mr Joel Daniels, an environmental project planning officer for the local council, said, "I greatly appreciate the wonderful effort you have given to this important project; you have done a remarkable job." He has supported many Mormon Helping Hands efforts to reclaim the city's park and bushland over the past four years.
Still another area, nearby Light Horse Park, has also been beautified by Mormon Helping Hands volunteers. At the delicate riverbank, that has been partially overrun by railway construction works, large bags of rubbish have been collected. Rick Manu, a leader of the Liverpool First Ward said, "It's remarkable how much rubbish has been collected. The Park looks so much better now, and kids can play in a safer environment."
In a study by the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice, a team of researchers concluded that "active Latter-day Saints volunteer and donate significantly more than the average [citizen] and are even more generous in time and money than the upper quintile of religious people in America." Australian Mormons from all walks of life are similar in their dedication to serving generously with their time and resources.
According to the university's data, an active Latter-day Saint volunteers 427.9 hours annually - a contribution worth an estimated $9,140 annually - compared with 48 hours per year for the average citizen. Besides volunteerism of a religious nature, Mormons also dedicate 151.9 hours annually to serving in the Church's social and community initiatives, such as the Boy Scouts or the Church's worldwide welfare and humanitarian aid programs.