People in the various stakes in Laie said they have utilized justserve.org to improve community life quality. The Laie Hawaii Stake has completed more than 100 service projects including the Laie Cemetery digitizing project where 120 volunteers participated.
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,” it says.
David Lewis, the Laie Hawaii Stake’s Just Serve specialist, said five of Hawaii’s 16 stakes are in Laie. Each stake has Just Serve specialists who are in charge of stake service projects. Lewis said the Laie Hawaii Stake’s goal is to do a service project 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 curbs, 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 their zip code. The search will show possible projects in the specified area. The next step is to contact to the sponsor of a project to join.
According to justserve.org, anyone can create a project and find volunteers through the website. On the site there are success stories and videos of how service projects have helped individuals and communities.
Justserve.org was created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints five years ago, according to Lewis. Some cities in the United States use the website for their community service, including the Los Angeles Police Department.
Lewis said, on average 30-to-50 volunteers participate in Laie Hawaii 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 that had over 120 volunteers.” According to Lewis, the Brigham Young University – Hawaii and Polynesian Cultural Center presidents and vice presidents are active members who participate in the service projects.
Laie Cemetery project
Rhonda Bell, a Laie Hawaii 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 Billion Graves 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 phones and take photos of the Laie Cemetery graves and where they are located in the cemetery. Second, they transcribe the information on the headstones in the photos to make them searchable. Third, they do quality control after all the photos of the headstones are transcribed. Fourth, they report the result to the Laie Hawaii Stake presidency.
Bell said the first phase of the project went well because volunteers participated and did a good job of taking clear photos. The Laie Cemetery has more than 1,900 graves, she said and they took photos of all graves. The Laie Hawaii Stake members are now 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 them 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.
“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 Billion Graves is linked with familysearch.org.”
Lewis said, “I was amazed so many people were interested to help others find their ancestors and boost their genealogy search.” Lewis said his stake is also planning to do another Billion Graves project in cemeteries in Kahuku and Hauula.
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