420 young members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gathered in Adelaide over the New Year period for a ‘Young Single Adult’ (Y.S.A.) Convention.
The convention — which was based at Saint Mark’s student accommodation facility in North Adelaide, on the banks of the River Torrens — was held from 27 December 2012 to 1 January 2013.
Annual Y.S.A. conventions are held at various major cities across Australia and are designed to boost faith and fellowship for 18-30 year-old single adults, with service projects always included in the programme of events.
The Adelaide convention included an ‘amazing race,’ a formal ball at a well known downtown hotel, and a New Year’s Eve ‘illuminate-paint party.’ A highlight for many, however, was the 31 December community service project day.
Convention participants spent the day helping several local organisations, including ‘Ruf Us,’ a charity that aids homeless individuals.
21-year-old Stefany Clancy, from Wollongong, New South Wales, joined others packing home-start and basics packs for the organisation to give to homeless individuals.
“It was so good to be part of such a worthwhile project, and to really reflect on all the things we have in our lives that we take for granted,” she said. “We wrote personal messages to put in each pack. I wrote: ‘Keep smiling – it will strengthen others and yourself.’”
Stefany added: “The Ruf Us founder, Aileen Jefferis, gave a powerful talk at the convention devotional on Sunday night, helping us to understand what it’s like for her street family, as she called them.”
According to Ms Jefferis, the donations greatly boosted her charity’s ability to provide basics for people “sleeping rough” in the parklands as well as working with them in support of long-term goals for housing and accommodation.
“We’re overwhelmed by the generosity and support of the Church and its young people,” Ms Jefferis said. “We’ve had community support in the past but not to this level. This is the largest donation we’ve had with 100 toilet rolls and water packs, 20 sleeping swags and home-start kits. It will make a big difference for many.”
The lightweight and weatherproof swags can be carried as a shoulder satchel.
“One of the reasons we prefer them is that it’s not so embarrassing for those sleeping rough if the swag resembles a shoulder bag, plus it has a good sized pouch they can keep all their possessions in — including the hygiene basics packs the Church also donated,” Ms Jefferis added.
In addition to supporting Ruf Us, Stefany and others packed kits and children’s activity packs for Adelaide’s Women’s and Children’s Hospital.
A further 40 convention volunteers donated blood to help the Red Cross Blood Service prepare for emergency shortages in the coming year.
Red Cross Blood Service’s Emma Schreiber said the large group booking showed great support. "We're grateful that the group visited the Regent Blood Donor Centre on New Year's Eve, a time that the blood service was low on appointments but donations were more important than ever,” she explained.
"The group demonstrated their generosity by donating an hour of their time, at a time when many of our regular donors take a break. By donating blood, they have given the gift of life to others including those with cancer, unborn babies and road trauma victims.”
"With the demand for blood and blood products expected to double in the next decade, we’d encourage more young people to do what they have done and roll up their sleeves to save lives.”
Donating is personal for Adelaide Latter-day Saint woman and registered blood donor, Debbie May, 22. Her sister Roseanne is in remission following a battle with Leukaemia that included several blood and bone marrow transfusions.
“I’m so grateful for all the treatments my sister received, and this service project was important to me because I know there are lots of people out there who need the same kind of support and treatments,” said Debbie.
Latter-day Saint leader, Elder Peter Meurs, joined the convention for their Sunday worship services and commended attendees for their enthusiastic involvement which balanced socialising, giving community service, and also taking time to focus on spiritual matters.
“The race on Friday not only took participants to many of the sites of beautiful downtown Adelaide but also provided an opportunity for a flash mob dance in Rundle Mall which was shown on local television,” Elder Meurs said.
“Many of the young people at the convention were former missionaries and some who were preparing to serve a full-time mission for the Church,” he said. “Australian young single adults are responding with others around the world to President Monson's invitation for them to serve missions when they are 18 and 19 years of age.”
Many of the young people at the Adelaide 2012 convention provided additional support for the Ruf Us charity by donating their room-key bond money at the close of the event.