Mormon Helping Hands serve in Colorado flood relief

Story first posted on October 16, 2013, by Shirley Scoville on As Light Shines
Related flood stories on As Light Shines archives Colorado Flood Relief 2013

Members of the Boulder Colorado Stake wore Mormon Helping Hands vests and lifted many people’s spirits on Sept. 29, 2013, in their ongoing efforts to help neighbors clean up their properties damaged by the flood. This video puts faces and voices with the vests.

A young boy told Mormon Helping Hands volunteer Mike Newbry that most of his house’s floors were gone, others unsafe to walk on. His front yard had grass, a garden and a pond, which is now underneath 10 feet or more of sand and boulders.

He is glad his family made it out before the waters came and are safe. After returning, though, he saw the raging river washing trees downstream and heard boulders smashing into each other. His biggest disappointment was his Legos collection was washed away.

Members of the Boulder Colorado Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints wearing yellow Mormon Helping Hands vests came to help the boy and many others afflicted by the devastating flood. They gathered in Boulder at the church at 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 28, 2013, received training and assignments, slipped on their vests and grabbed a lunch for the all-day commitment. Assignments were in various parts of Boulder County.

The cultural hall at the church was full of energy with the crowd there in the morning and more subdued when work parties returned their boots and sleighs a group at a time in the afternoon. A crew stuck around all day at the church to field calls, to record efforts properly for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to thank volunteers.

Quinn Remund, second counselor in the Boulder Stake presidency, added another message of gratitude the next day. He said, “Thanks to everyone for the great turnout on Saturday. By the end of the day, we had approximately 160 volunteers that, together, put in hundreds of hours of service. What a difference you made in a single day! We’d love to hear about your experiences and see your photos of the service project!”

Other numbers include nearly 100 volunteers working an estimated 600 volunteer hours on Sept. 14 after gathering at the Church in Boulder and 120 volunteers putting in approximately 500 hours of service on Oct. 5.

“You’re moving mud and hearts one shovel-full at a time!” Remund told volunteers in a written message.

Members also have hauled debris in organized efforts through the Stake on several occasions, provided personnel for the Donation Drop-off Center at 5495 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, when it was open and monitored dumpsters for FEMA throughout Boulder County.

The Stake’s commitment to provide free flood relief help is ongoing. Those needing help are encouraged to call 720-924-6550 or visit

JustServe brings together people who need help with those who are willing to give help. By partnering with churches, civic organizations, non-profits and government agencies, JustServe links you to service opportunities in your community so you can make a difference wherever you are and however you want to do it. Service opportunities include flood relief efforts as seen in this video.

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Finding resiliency amid floods and challenges

Upon seeing scenes of homes and other property being swept away, towns flooded, and farms and livestock stranded by water, my heart goes out to all those suffering near my home in Colorado in the recent floods. I hope they recover. I also hope that those facing less obvious but still overwhelming challenges in other ways will find their resiliency.

Bob, as I’ll call him for this piece, is struggling on many fronts in his life. His thoughts as he faces his challenges could help others.

Bob said, “Have you ever been in the depths, looking all around yourself and see everything falling apart in almost all aspects of your life? In this moment as you feel the life force draining out of you, the desire to press forward literally dying and all you can see is what’s wrong, look for just one thing that is happening right. One thing that is good, one person, one place, one thing, one single idea. Focus on that and turn your thoughts and your heart to God and pour out open gratitude for that single thing you are so blessed with.”

The one good focus is like a spark or glimmer of hope when all seems dark. It is amazing that when the house and everything inside it is gone that thinking of one thing going right and expressing gratitude to God would help. Though I’ve not been in that situation, I see people on the news expressing gratitude that only their possessions, not their families, were swept away.

Bob continued, “And you know what you will experience next? A feeling, a good feeling. You’ll begin counting other blessings you have in your life beyond this single thing. And from that moment forward, you see it. You see it in your mind; you feel it in your heart. All is not lost, all will be okay. This is a challenge and a test.

“And as you notice the thing you are now most grateful for, and you feel this great feeling inside of love for God. You begin to look around yourself at other things and recognize their beauty. And, you can begin to shift your view. Instead of seeing everything as being hopeless (and you do recognize those challenges still remain), you can now start to see the light brighten your view to all God’s mercies he has extended to you.

“It could be the very fact that when you flush the toilet it goes down. Running water is a marvelous thing for those who have it. Internet connections are incredible. Eyes to see, legs to walk, a body, nose, and all the things we take for granted. We can look at what we have and recognize more that we truly are blessed. Yes, the struggles are big, but we are equal to them. In fact, we are better than the challenges.

“God knows this of us — how powerful we are and how capable we are to do amazing things. And, these challenges are placed in our path for us to prove to ourselves who we are because God already knows we are truly gifted, blessed, talented, and incredible, powerful beings with the power to create, solve, and do truly amazing things. Our challenges stretch us into seeing for ourselves the seed of Godhood we have within us as we are the children of an all-powerful, loving, and just God. He is our Father. He loves us. Be still, and know that he watching over you and allowing difficult things to happen for you to become stronger, better, and wiser. Grow into the you that you truly are. You can do it. Keep going forward and become all that you have been created to become.”

Challenges come on many fronts. Maybe we were not affected by a flood, but all of us will have overwhelming times sometime. God will help us if will allow him to do so. As Bob affirmed, we are “better” than these challenges and can rise in strength to become as God would have us be.

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Memes can sell good and bad ideas

Memes can sell both good and bad ideas. I made this meme in response to one I saw online today.

Memes can sell both good and bad ideas.
   I made this meme in response to one I saw online today.

A gardener had a little plot of ground where a variety of colors of petunias started blossoming voluntarily one year. Nothing had been planted there before. The next two years saw increased flowers and colors. The owner enjoyed the flowers very much and watered and weeded and added more bark where spots were thin but did nothing else. As flowers drop seeds this year, flowers may continue there indefinitely with little human effort.

At the same time, the gardener, tilled manure into a little garden plot in the spring and planted seeds and young plants from the nursery. The gardener watered and weeded and thinned plants. The resulting harvest took time and effort but produced a few strawberries rescued from the squirrels and birds, plentiful peas, a bumper crop of string beans, an assortment of squash in the summer and fall, and tomatoes and carrots.

A meme for this situation might say: “Care about the volunteer flowers while still tending to the garden.”

Just like flowers and vegetables serve very different but valuable purposes, so do friends and family. Attractive packages can sell bad ideas. A case in point is a meme I saw today with an artistic background saying, “Don’t worry about the family that ignores and acts like you don’t matter, love the ones who are always there for you no matter what.”

A better idea is to care about the ones who know how to show they care about us, but never give up on family. God put us in a particular family for a purpose. Maybe in Heaven we said to God, “Send me down to that family. I’m strong enough. I can help them return.” A better meme would be: “Enjoy your friends who care about you while still caring for your family no matter what.”

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Golden Rule trumps ADA

As I approached an area business building housing several businesses, including a bank, last fall, I noticed the handicapped parking and ramp. Then, I tried to open the heavy door and wondered, “How is a person in a wheelchair expected to open that door?”

I bothered to ask at a business inside for the building owner’s name and number. The owner was cordial enough on the phone until I suggested a door opener for those needing assistance. He said in a defensive tone that his doors were set to the correct pounds of pressure and that he was not required to have a door opener. If the tenants wanted to get one on their own, he would allow it, he said.

Much good that allows those with disabilities to more freely move about and participate in public places has come from the Americans with Disabilities Act signed into law on July 26, 1990, by President George H. W. Bush. It has brought us handicapped parking and ramps, elevators where there were none, Braille on elevators, and beeps at traffic lights for the visually impaired. More places have bathroom accommodations for those in wheelchairs and more help is available in classrooms and on campuses for students.

Unfortunately though, there are many doors, even literal ones, yet to be opened for those with disabilities, which could be any of us at any time. What the business building owner has yet to learn is that much of the good that has come about for those with disabilities is not actually required by law. It’s more of a desire to follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do to you.

A big one for travelers with disabilities is that airlines are not required by law to provide wheelchairs and carts for those with disabilities. Likewise, hotels with tall beds provide stools as a courtesy to help customers get into bed. Buses that lower themselves to the curb to make it easier for those with disabilities to get on and off are offered beyond legal requirements. And, the father, who says to his young son “Get the door” as he sees a person needing help approaching one, has taught the next generation what it’s all about.

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Incest a stretch from discomfort

What does it mean when I said I felt uncomfortable seeing pictures of same-gender couples kissing on the mouth? What does it mean when I also said I felt uncomfortable seeing parents kissing their grown children on the mouth and a neighbor mother kissing the grown neighbor’s son on the mouth?

Feeling uncomfortable with these real experiences I had means I’ve had other experiences that have shaped my public display of affection. At some early age, I no longer kissed my mother on the mouth. The same happened with my babies. Once they stopped giving slobbery baby and toddler kisses, we stuck with kisses on the cheeks and hugs.

Seeing two people of the same gender kissing takes me to an unfamiliar place. Nevertheless, if they had been of opposite genders, I could have been uncomfortable as well. Weddings are notorious for public and physical displays of affection and love. Still, it doesn’t mean I feel comfortable watching. I discovered through uncomfortable experiences that others do things differently.

I owned these feelings of discomfort in a post on this blog with the post “Civil unions not the end goal”. You may already know, this blog is a community blog linked on the front page of the Daily Camera’s website.

I said in part: “Seeing Daily Camera pictures of same-gender couples kissing on the mouth at the Boulder County civil union parties last night made me feel uncomfortable. I felt the same way when I saw parents kissing their grown children on the mouth or a neighbor mother kissing on the mouth the grown neighbor’s son. That’s how I am.”

Doug McKenna (July 5 Daily Camera guest opinion) said I insinuated that two gay men kissing was akin to incest. He made this statement as part of his rant about the Supreme Court’s rulings on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8.

McKenna missed the fact that incest is a big stretch from my being uncomfortable seeing a picture of two same-gender people kissing. The label of incest should not be casually used and requires much more than a kiss.

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Good Fathers

The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square performed “Good Fathers,” the Father’s Day Special of “Music & the Spoken Word,” on June 17, 2012. The video was published on YouTube on June 11, 2013.

The Monday after Father’s Day, I watched the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s 2012 Father’s Day special that had been published less than a week earlier on YouTube. The words and music uncovered memories and feelings I had not expressed before. I hope it’s not too late now.

The new father I wish to honor held his newborn daughter in his arms and looked into her eyes with deep love and awe. As the work began of raising her, he shouldered new responsibilities while juggling his university studies, full-time work and other family needs. He carried extra laundry to the laundromat on weekly trips he and his wife made and later used the family’s limited funds to buy a washing machine.

A couple of years later, the young father held another precious newborn daughter with loving tenderness and joy. Love doubled in their home as did demands on his time and resources. After graduation, he secured a new job and moved the family into their own home. He worked at his job then tamed the weeds at home and made the yard a lovely place. He put in clothesline poles and strung the lines. A dryer was out of the question.

After a period of time, the busy father tenderly cradled his first newborn son in his arms. Love and delight shown on his face. The girls welcomed their brother with lots of hugs and kisses. They got a dryer to go with their washer and a larger car.

A few more years passed as the experienced father juggled work, family and church responsibilities. Then, the day came when he held his second newborn son. He was overjoyed and full of love and gratitude. The two sisters and one brother took turns holding their baby brother. The clothesline was fun until they got a dryer.

Through the years, this dear father got everyone to help with chores so the family could go out to dinner on Fridays. He brought in the groceries after helping with the shopping. He read stories at bedtime, gathered the family together for family scripture study and prayer, and took his family to church with him on Sundays. He took his church responsibilities seriously and served willingly.

This father gardened, mowed the lawn, planted trees, and took care of the yard. He attended piano competitions, concerts and sports games. He put in a basketball standard and made a tetherball pole on an old tire.

He drove on family vacations and announced milestones on the way. He demonstrated his value of family by visiting parents and siblings every year, calling family members on their birthdays, and doing genealogy. Holidays were family affairs. He helped make pies the night before Thanksgiving, dressed the turkey, made the gravy and cut up vegetables on Thanksgiving. He supported family traditions on every holiday.

Sometimes, he was patient with his children to a fault. He made ice cream with them, shoveled snow, raked the lawn, and swept the sidewalks, porch and driveway. He sang with his family in a church choir. He weeded beans and onions with those old enough to help at the church farm. He introduced them to computers, watched movies with them, and took the family on a church history trip and family vacations with a 2-day’s drive.

This father fixed a bedroom door jam and helped a family member mend a wall. He rescued the family car stuck in the mud after his wife took a bad shortcut home. He drove his expectant wife to the hospital for each birth and took care of the children in her absence. He bought bikes for the family in hopes everyone would ride together. The list goes on.

This father wasn’t perfect. No father is but Heavenly Father. However, this father was and is a good father. So, now you know.

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Fun replaces scary school images

The video, “Bingham High School Lip Dub 2013 – “This is Bingham (I love it)” posted on YouTube on May 29, 2013, shows a student body full of bouncy energy and school pride.

When I say, “high school,” what first pops into your mind? No matter what it is, the Bingham High School yearbook staff video may change that. Their video is filled with over 2,200 participants, 23 soloists, 800 balloons, 250 pounds of flour, 200 glow sticks, and a helicopter. Students are full of bounce and school pride.

“I think it’s wonderful. It says A LOT about the positive school culture at Bingham High,” wrote Benjamin Scoville, a nephew, after seeing the video posted on a social media site. ”I was surprised that so many students were willing to participate and show their enthusiasm.”

Nevertheless, Scoville expressed conflicting feelings. He recently visited several schools in Mexico City and in small towns close by it. He said, “As I watched this video, I also felt sad that so many other young people in Mexico (and in the U.S.) lack resources and access to excellent teachers. The kids at Bingham are, indeed, very fortunate. I’m looking forward to working with them this fall.”

The education system does have failings, including lack of access to excellent teachers for all students. As a mother of children who went through the Boulder Valley School District, I’ve seen much good to cheer about but also much that needs to be changed. These topics will have to be addressed individually at another time.

Despite its own challenges, Bingham High is replacing scary images from schools with fun images of students coming together with school pride. Schools throughout the country could do a lot to improve their learning environments by doing the same in whatever ways their resources allow. This act could help save lives. And, the benefit increases the more people who know.

We hear throughout the video, “This is Bingham. I love it.” No wonder the students of this South Jordan, Utah, high school are proud of their school. Look at them working together. Look at them showing off their school while focusing on various interests supported at the school. Look at the outstanding result.

The video from the helicopter brought to mind the significant difference between the scenes in that video and those shown on the news during and after school shootings. Bingham High students were in the halls and on the school grounds having fun, not running for their lives.

Comments below the video suggest the entire student body was involved. I hope that was true. Still, this video instantly tops the school videos in my brain. I’ll load this one up and leave the others behind – if I can.

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After Mother’s Day

This video is for all mothers as we realize our potential in our role.

Mother’s Day for many mothers was filled with gifts and services from a doting husband and their children. Breakfast in bed, flowers, candy, spa treatments, jewelry, indulgences of all sorts top the list. Visits, phone calls and cards also rank high.

Yet, other mothers didn’t receive any of that. The day brought nothing special. No gifts, no special treatments, no visits, no calls. It’s easy for these mothers to assume they aren’t worthy of being honored whether their chilren and fathers of their children are in their lives.

It’s true some mothers don’t deserve a lot of thanks. They have abandoned their children in one or more ways. Their children have had to get what mothering they could from other sources. They are lucky when their fathers are willing and capable, and when they accept it from other mothers, sisters and friends.

Nevertheless, honoring our mothers and motherhood has more to do with what we’re like than what our mothers are or were like. Every day we make good choices, righteous choices, and loving choices, we are honoring our mothers (and fathers).

I’d like to honor my mother. She wasn’t perfect but was great. She wasn’t always there for me but was there in the most important ways and on the most important days. She didn’t understand all my challenges, but then, I didn’t tell her everything. She couldn’t fix all of my life’s problems. Still, she connected me to the source that could. My mother was a woman of faith in God. Thank you, Mom.

In case you’re wondering, I had a great Mother’s Day. I always do.

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Civil unions not the end goal

Seeing Daily Camera pictures of same-gender couples kissing on the mouth at the Boulder County civil union parties last night made me feel uncomfortable. I felt the same way when I saw parents kissing their grown children on the mouth or a neighbor mother kissing on the mouth the grown neighbor’s son. That’s how I am.

Still, same-gender couples joining in civil unions have something to celebrate. As far as I can tell, they have everything married couples have but the word “marriage” describing their relationships. They have survivorship, can pay taxes jointly, can adopt and can be at their partners’ hospital bedsides.

That’s not enough, though, for vocal same-gender couples. The battle never was about civil unions as the end goal for them. They say they will never stop fighting until same-gender relationships can be recognized as marriages. Their plan is that first some churches and government will recognize them. Then, the activists will go after the rest of the churches. If they resist, the next step very possibly could be to charge those churches with discrimination and hate crimes.

The issue really isn’t “about love and commitment, about basic dignity and about being able to protect your families,” as Democrat U.S. Senator Mark Udall from Colorado said on his official blog on April 30. If so, he’d be in the front of the line supporting polygamist families and their numerous children. Let’s see if he steps up to that plate.

Those with same-gender attraction should have full and meaningful lives, and allowing their marriages may give them some semblance of that. However, this movement aims to trample on religious freedom of those who see marriage differently.

I fear the day may come in my lifetime that I won’t be able to say without legal repercussions what my beliefs are about marriage. I believe marriage should be defined as the union between one man and one woman.

(Updated 5/31/13)

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Censorship or rules of decorum

A University of Colorado art student learned art moves people. It’s the same information a young cleaning business executive knew and used to his advantage years ago. The difference is the student didn’t like her results.

Don Aslett, a cleaning expert, author and CEO of his own business, was tired of undue wait times in hotel lobbies and at other service counters, so he devised a plan. He made his attaché case look like something he cleaned, a toilet. Not only was his case a business visual, it helped get him faster service. When waits got long, he would simply sit on his attaché case. Hotel clerks and the like responded by getting Aslett on his way quickly.

When Aslett spoke at a women’s conference of the Boulder Colorado Stake in the early 1980s where he told this story, no one cried “censorship.” Aslett, obviously, was working the rules of public decorum to his advantage. Clarissa Peppers, a CU art student, did the same to gain notoriety.

Peppers knew her works had shock value. She focused on the vagina, a part of the female body she said certain people may see as having a singular use. When CU’s Department of Art & History moved the display to the VAC’s basement and later allowed it back to the lobby with a floor-to-ceiling curtain and warning signs to finish its normal run, she cried censorship.

Not so. Peppers was still able to make the works and still able to display them. What she didn’t want, apparently, was for people to have a choice of whether to view her works. She set them up early in the morning on Dec. 3 in the lobby of the Visual Arts Complex. Everyone entering there would have seen her works unless their noses were in their books.

Thanks to those who complained when they were offended. Also, thanks to Kirk Ambrose, chair of CU’s Department of Art & History. He needs to know his actions were not only correct but welcomed. As a guide, CU should draft and adopt a policy giving people the respect to choose what images go into their brains when rules of decorum will be violated. It’s the right thing to do.

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