This past Saturday, state Rep. Joel Briscoe and I co-hosted a special Christmas edition of “Red Meat Radio.” We spent a couple of hours talking to people who are actively involved in serving others all year.
There were several common threads with all of our guests. One was that everyone needs to feel that someone cares, that they are seen and appreciated. Another is that, for most people receiving acts of service, their rough patches are temporary. A third common thread was that there are people who need help all year long.
Our first guest was Tani Downing, who recently traveled to Puerto Rico to literally bring light to a darkened island. She, Utah State Auditor John Dougall and a handful of others went with “Light Up Puerto Rico” to bring generators, solar panels and Goal Zero power units. Donations are still needed, as much of the island is still without power, months after Hurricane Maria hit. You can donate on the YouCaring site for "Light Up Puerto Rico” or on the Tifie.org site. You can also listen to that segment of the podcast for a touching story about an older woman whose home was roofless, but she was still actively sharing with others.
Our next guest was state Rep. Karen Kwan, D-Murray, who shared some of the efforts she is involved in. There is an influx of families moving from American Samoa to Ephraim, Utah, to work on turkey farms. As you might imagine, the weather differences can be a shock. Kwan is gathering coats, blankets and other supplies. You can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Anadine Marshall, manager for the American Fork Tabitha’s Way food pantry, joined us next to talk about feeding the hungry in our communities and the goals of hunger-free zones. She shared a touching story of a man who knocked on the door of the pantry after hours on Friday night, desperate for food. Not only was she able to help him stock his shelves with the basics but, because of generous donations, she was also able to provide a full turkey dinner. As she helped him load his car, she saw that he was sobbing in relief and gratitude. You can also listen to Karen and Anadine’s section of the podcast to hear their stories.
State Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, joined us to talk about The Road Home and helping the homeless in Utah. Most of the homeless are not chronically without a place to live, but fall upon hard times and end up out of options. The Road Home helps with emergency shelter, assistance with training, supplies and ongoing to support to get and keep employment and helps individuals and families out of shelters and into long-term housing. You can listen to his segment here.
LaDawn Stoddard joined us to talk about one of Utah’s “best kept secrets” - UServe.org - a website dedicated to helping link volunteers with projects. In addition to serving during the holidays, UServe is making a push to help meet community needs all year by promoting a “Service Pledge Drive.” It’s easy to participate. Head to their website, sign up for how many hours you would like to serve and when you would like to serve and then receive an email reminder as you get close to the time of year you signed ups to serve. Easy peasy.
Finally, we were joined by Missy Larsen, original founder of what is now known as the Utah Refugee Connection. There are many opportunities to serve refugees who have relocated to Utah - volunteering at the “incentive store” for elementary age kids, helping with preschoolers, helping teens with reading, working with a Burmese Scout troop and many more. The Utah Refugee Connection also sponsors Refugee Cultural Nights to give all of us an opportunity to get to know our neighbors. The next one is Jan. 3 and is focused on Afghanistan. You can listen to LaDawn and Missy’s segment here.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said “The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.” There are many in this state who are working hard all year-round to make sure that those whose world has collapsed have help to pick up the pieces.
Holly Richardson, a Salt Lake Tribune columnist, is honored to know and work with so many good people.