Serve the community through justserve.org By Serena Dugar Ioane

JustServe.org makes finding service projects easy, and Laie stakes have used it for five years.

Justserve.org website

Various stakes in Laie utilize justserve.org to improve community life quality. The Laie Stake has completed over 100 service projects including Laie Cemetery digitizing project which gathered 120 volunteers.

According to justserve.org, the site provides opportunities to relieve suffering and care for the poor and needy. “The organization is not for proselytizing or publicity. It is a free service to help link community needs with volunteers.”

David Lewis, the Laie Hawaii Stake’s JustServe specialist, said there are 16 stakes in Hawaii, and five are in Laie. Each stake has JustServe specialists who are in charge of stake service projects.Lewis said Laie stake’s goal is to do one service project per month on every second Saturday.

“We have done more than 40 service projects for Kahuku High School,” said Lewis, “such as power washing bleachers, painting the road curves, and so on. We also cleaned the Pounders beach park and did many services for a non-profit horse ranch. Next month we are planning to clean and cut tall grasses at the Kahuku district park. Our whole year is planned.”

Community members and students who want to volunteer for service can go to justserve.org and enter the zip code.The search will show possible projects in the specified area. The next step is to contact the sponsor of the projects to join.

According to justserve.org, anyone can create a project, and find volunteers through the website. There are success stories and videos of how service projects have helped individuals and communities on the site.

Justserve.org was created by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saintsfive years ago, according to Lewis. Some cities in the U.S. use the website for their community service, including the Los Angeles Police Department.

Lewis said, on average 30-50 volunteers participate in Laie Stake service projects. “We had some small projects that had only five volunteers. The biggest project our stake has done so far is the Laie Cemetery digitizing project which had over 120 volunteers.”

BYUH President John Tanner, vice president John Bell, and two senior missionaries during the project. Photo provided by Rhonda Bell.

According to him, the BYUH and PCC presidents and vice presidents are active members who participate in the service projects.

Laie Cemetery project

Rhonda Bell, a Laie Stake family history consultant, said her stake leaders asked her if she had service project ideas. She suggested digitizing the Laie Cemetery headstones for the BillionGraves app. According to billiongraves.com, the idea was to “capture images of headstones with their GPS locations for users worldwide to access those records anywhere.”

Lewis said this project has four phases. First, volunteers download the app on their phone and take photos and locations of the Laie Cemetery graves. Second, they transcribe the photos of the headstones to make them searchable. Third, they do quality control after all the photos transcribed. Fourth, they report the result to the Laie Stake presidency.

Bell said the first phase of the project went well because volunteers participated and did a good job of taking clear photos and locations. The Laie Cemetery has over 1,900 graves, and they took photos of all graves. Currently, the Laie Stake members are transcribing the photos to make them searchable.

Bell said they also worked with Hawaii Reserves Inc. (HRI), which is “a land management company that manages property for the Church on the north shore of Oahu,” according to hawaiireserves.com.

“We were instructed by HRI to be respectful to the graves,” said Bell,“Some graves were [unreadable because of] time and weather, so we brushed and cleaned it to take clear photos. Some headstones were sunk in the ground, so we used spades to bring out the information on headstones.

“We made sure everything we moved was put back. There were some unmarked graves HRI had information on, so we will work with them to get that information.”

Kate Anderson, temple and family history counselor of the Laie 2nd Ward was one of the team leaders. “We divided into teams and some of us cleaned the graves and trimmed the bushes while some of us took the photos and added the locations. Some families were there with their children. It was a fun family service for them.”

From the left Rhonda Bell, Laurie Tueller, and Kate Anderson who were the team leaders of the project. Photo taken by David Lewis.

“Rhonda Bell and Laurie Tueller were the other team leaders,” Anderson shared.“We work on family history daily, and Billion Graves will be a good source for people who do their family history since the Billion Graves is linked with familysearch.org.”

Lewis said, “I was amazed so many people were interested to help others to find their ancestors and boost their genealogy search.” Lewis said his stake are also planning to do another BillionGraves project in cemeteries in Kahuku and Hauula.