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Taylorsville Journal

More than 1,100 volunteers help to make 9/11 National Day of Service a huge success in Kearns

Oct 05, 2021 09:59AM ● By Carl Fauver

Despite occasionally heavy rainfall, volunteers in Kearns kept busy in a variety of ways during the community’s observance of the 9/11 National Day of Service. (Lynette Wendel)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

As our country marked the 20th anniversary of one of its worst days ever last month, many of us simply watched the 9/11 observance coverage on television.

But that was not the case in Kearns—at least not for everyone. Instead, an estimated 1,100 volunteers of all ages participated in a wide variety of community improvement projects as part of the National Day of Service.

“We were so happy with the turnout, because we honestly did not know what to expect,” said event Co-chair Becky Guertler. “Even though there was some heavy rain at times, people all seemed to have smiles on their faces. It was a really good thing for Kearns residents.”

The other Kearns 9/11 National Day of Service Co-chair, Anthony Loubet, concurred.

“I have noticed for some time now a desire amongst people to get engaged in community activities,” he said. “This was a grass roots, interfaith activity that was so much easier for residents to join in. And people get invested in projects like this—things they care about. They have a pride of ownership. This was a great opportunity.”

The idea of creating a 9/11 National Day of Service is credited to a pair of New Yorkers who formed a nonprofit group to coordinate activities there, just months after the terrorist attacks on that fall day in 2001. Now, a generation later, it’s estimated about 30 million people—nearly 10% of our entire United States population—donate part of their time to helping others on Sept. 11.

This was the first time the day was observed in such an organized and extensive way in Kearns.

Community activist Lynette Wendel was involved in brainstorming ideas for several different service activities that would engage residents.

“The volunteers were incredible, and the turnout far exceeded our expectations,” Wendell said. “We were all ready for just a good old dose of kindness I think.”

The day of service included several activities at many different Kearns locations.

For starters, members of the Tongan West Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did extensive yard cleanup at 31 Kearns homes. Stake leaders told organizers they had about 400 volunteers attend their “thank you” lunch that afternoon.

Meanwhile, other volunteers also weeded, mowed and spruced up an additional 20 homes.

Elsewhere, outside Hope Unlimited Church (4115 West 5290 South), about 80 volunteers worked to clean up an area that will now become a community garden. The church operates one of the Kearns food pantries. Organizers say the cleared area will allow them to grow fresh vegetables to distribute through the pantry.

And speaking of food pantries, another 9/11 National Day of Service activity took place outside Harmons Grocery (4872 West 6200 South). That’s where some 4,000 pounds of food were donated to all of the community food pantries. Organizers say some donors brought food from home to the drive, while many others simply loaded a second cart while shopping, in order to contribute.

Popular Mountain Man Park (4925 South 5200 West) was also buzzing with activity that day, as volunteers got some cleanup work done. Despite heavy rain at times, they were even able to paint the undersides of five open-air picnic pavilions in the park.

“The rain didn’t really cause problems for painters, but it did make kind of a mess of the chalk art,” Loubet said. “We had the chalk available to kids, to keep them busy while their parents worked and painted in the park. They drew American flags, teddy bears and other pictures with positive messages. One said ‘you are stronger than you know.’ The rain didn’t do them any good, but the kids had fun.” 

The community’s remaining activities for the 9/11 National Day of Service observance were held, comfortably dry, inside the Kearns Library (4375 West 5345 South). That’s where some volunteers assembled “birthday kits” while others wrote thank-you cards and letters to emergency first responders, veterans and active military personnel.

“We had about 450 of our volunteers come through the library,” Guertler said. “They made up 377 birthday kits, which included cake mix, frosting, candles, table clothes, napkins, utensils, party decorations and toys. Those will be given out at our food pantries. Parents will have everything in one bag to throw their child a birthday party.”

As for the thank you cards, Guertler says about 600 of them were made.

“Some people wrote notes in already printed cards, while others started with blank sheets of paper and used their imagination,” she said.

Several elected officials made appearances throughout the day, including Kearns Metro Township Mayor Kelly Bush, Utah District 38 House Rep. Ashlee Matthews and District 5 State Sen. Karen Mayne.

Organizers estimate about 200 of their 1,100 volunteers were Kearns High School students, with nearly half of those being members of the Cougars’ football team.  

“This day was such a big success; I’m sure we will do it again next year,” Guertler said. “In fact, now some people are talking about a similar day sometime in the spring, so we could have two community volunteer service days each year.”

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