9-11 Day of Service Becomes Month of Service

Congregations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from Dallas, Ellis, and Navarro Counties in Texas devote an entire month to remembrance and service

“Thirty days hath September” begins the familiar mnemonic. Only one of those days is 9/11, a National Day of Service. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the Trinity River south and east to Corsicana rose to the challenge of honoring the fallen and first responders not on a single day but for many.

Corsicana is a city of about 25,000 residents 50 miles from Dallas. Founded in 1848 by Jose Antonio Navarro, it takes its name from the island of his father’s birth, Corsica.  Members of the Church in Corsicana chose to participate in six service projects during September. Beginning on the 1st, they supported an American Red Cross blood drive hosted by St. Luke United Methodist Church. First responders received cards and cookies on 9/11, prepared and delivered by children from the local congregation. There were smiles (and a few tears) all around.

Some Corsicana Primary Children from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deliver goodies and cards of appreciation to Corsicana First Responders

The next four projects involved private homes, from cleaning yards and removing sheds to removing a fallen carport and repairing shingles. Jim Holmes, in charge of the planning in Corsicana, said, “We will continue to have service activities each month. September has been sweet.”

Men of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Corsicana put in a hard day’s work doing yard cleanups.

Members of the Church in Midlothian and Waxahachie also completed multiple service projects. On September 2nd and 3rd, they put their carpentry skills to work building a wheelchair ramp for a woman living with her daughter’s family. Using materials from a recently disassembled ramp that was no longer needed, volunteers fitted the mobile home with a good-as-new ramp. The delighted family served homemade lemonade in appreciation.

Midlothian and Waxahachie congregation members of The Church of Jesus Christ install a much-needed wheelchair ramp. Photo by Jim Brunson.
Apryl is ‘hands-on’ in the building of her new home. Photo by Jim Brunson.

Partnering for the first time with Habitat for Humanity, another set of members in the area hung ten interior doors, helped construct a retaining wall, and painted a newly built home for Apryl. She is a single mother working two jobs to support her family which includes a special needs daughter. Every Saturday since April, Apryl has been at the work site participating in the construction herself.

On September 17th, over two dozen church members teamed up with the Waxahachie Parks and Recreation Department and members of the Keep Waxahachie Beautiful board to clean portions of a 4,000-foot stretch of Mustang Creek. The creek is part of the popular Brown Singleton Park, so clearing brush and picking up litter is always a priority. City crews had dozens of bags to haul away.

Women in the Midlothian congregation met on September 20 to make Christmas ornaments for Meals on Wheels holiday gift bags. With the goal of 100 ornaments, the group also plans future donations of adult coloring books, large-piece puzzles, and toothbrush/toothpaste sets.

Children in Waxahachie and Midlothian made wildflower seed balls on September 23, mixing soil and water into egg-sized shapes for use by the Ellis County Rural Heritage Farm. Mandy Bartlett commented, “The kids had so much fun. It was a great project to help with.”

Steve Mosley and his wife Charlotte are serving a Church mission in the Oak Cliff area. When Steve learned about the Day of Service, he visited with a member of his congregation who needed roof repairs. The shingles had been purchased long before, so Steve assisted with the new roofing.

The Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery lies on the far west side of Oak Cliff. A non-profit organization called Carry the Load organized a headstone clean-up on Friday, September 9. Hundreds of people gathered to help. A link to the organization’s website from allowed sign-up for volunteers.

Bishop Toby Carrillo wields the chainsaw. Photo by Nadia Ramos

On September 10, members of one of the Spanish-language congregations in the area tackled brush removal for a family who lost their father a few weeks earlier. They needed help to make sure the property was safe. Young men also helped, but only Bishop Toby Carrillo got to use the chainsaw!

Youth in another area of Dallas began the month with a similar clean-up project. They cut down and stacked bamboo and weeded flowerbeds while adults repaired a gate. Fence repairs will require additional adults (with power tools, of course.)

Children colored cards and wrote notes for first responders in Duncanville and Cedar Hill. Jessamin Jensen originally planned for just her congregation’s children to participate but decided to include many more during a Sunday morning conference. “It was important that we gave each child the opportunity to participate,” she said, so each child received a bag and cardstock thank you notes. Over 75 cards were delivered on 9/11, surprising police and firefighters.

On September 24th, women from all over the area—Oak Cliff to Corsicana—gathered at Briarwood Park in DeSoto for a morning of litter removal.

Women unite to clean up Briarwood Park in DeSoto, Texas. Photo by Young Suk Bartlett.

Edgewood Cemetery has a long history and is featured on the Dallas Genealogical Society site. Many graves include markers from the 1800s; the first burial was in 1845. Jack Lemon, a veteran of the American Revolution died on July 4, 1858, and is interred at Edgewood. Although most of the cemetery is under perpetual care, part is not and needs weeding and tree limb removal. Church of Jesus Christ member, Lasi Manu of Desoto, organized this project; his group filled many bags with brush and debris.

Lasi Manu of DeSoto organized the cleanup of Edgewood Cemetery. Photo courtesy of Lasi Manu.
PIP Mastermind Betty Dunn

The Property Improvement Program (PIP) is the brainchild of Betty Dunn, a member of the First United Methodist Church in Duncanville. Seven years ago, she partnered with the city to find homes that could use cosmetic repairs and yard work. The residents had to be the homeowners with a “need” and not a “want,” and they would agree to non-professional volunteer assistance. Over 53 houses have been rehabbed since the program began, even a cessation during COVID. Five local churches now participate. City services include debris removal; David Garcia with Republic Services was willing to work on a Saturday. Donated funds are used to purchase supplies. Members in Duncanville and Midlothian participated and were joined by two interfaith friends, Dr. Karen Hollie and Dr. Re’Donna Polk.

These hours of planning and working could be counted, but more important than that number are the shared feelings of working in the service of others. Motivated by the memory of a difficult event in American history, people find that positive action replaces negative perspectives. As Jim Holmes described it, “September has been sweet.”