JustServe food drives in Europe help through difficult winter months
Food banks have faced what they call “the harshest winter yet” in Europe as costs soar. For this reason, JustServe in the North Europe area of the Church has encouraged volunteers to support nutrition-related charities.
JustServe.org is a website and app that allows charities and community groups to list their volunteer needs. Jane and Paul Elvidge oversee JustServe in the Europe North area and launched a campaign called Harvest Appeal in October 2022.
With support from the Area Presidency, the Elvidges asked stake presidents and stake Relief Society presidents to invite their members to participate, the church’s UK newsroom reported.
Jane Elvidge said the response from members and the community has been amazing.
“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a strong tradition of helping those in need, and we created the JustServe Harvest Appeal to build on what has already happened in our stakes to serve the growing number of To help people who are suffering,” she said.
Many stakes already support food banks with regular food drives, but the Harvest Appeal campaign has allowed them to use JustServe, social media, and community connections to raise more funds than usual and find new ways to help.
In the Basingstoke Ward, Reading England Stake, Rebecca Barnsley used social media to promote the harvest appeal. On the day of the donation, missionaries distributed flyers at the chapel gate and members of the local church stopped by to donate food.
“It was a huge success and we delivered two truckloads of groceries to the Basingstoke Food Bank,” Barnsley said. After the event, the food bank emailed her to thank her for the 284 kilograms (nearly 550 pounds) of food.
Chloe Ludford – a friend of the Church in Chichester, England – encouraged her office, Leaders Limited, to collect food for the Chichester District Food Bank throughout October as part of the Harvest Appeal campaign.
“It was so nice to see the donations from the public. We get a lot of visitors through the door, and people keep coming in giving things away and saying it’s a wonderful cause and how much they like our community spirit,” Ludford said in November 2022. She later received a grateful email from the board and explained that it is entirely donation based so the new food is greatly appreciated.
In the Leeds England Stake, youth in the Bradford Ward distributed 200 flyers in their communities. The printer told them there would be no charges because it was for a good cause. On the collection day, several people from the local Muslim community joined community members to donate food and they donated 36 bags of food to the Bradford Metropolitan Food Bank.
The Kettering Ward, Northampton England Stake, received nine sacks of supplies and donated food on October 30 and November 2—while members also donated to food banks in their hometowns.
Debbie Twigger, a JustServe executive in the Northamptonshire region, said in a JustServe online post: “This has been a wonderful opportunity for members to serve the community in love and charity at a time when the needy are more than ever in are in need. Thank you to everyone who selflessly gave what they could. We know that the food will be gratefully received and will bless the lives of many.”
In addition to the wards and stakes in England, 15 congregations in Finland also participated in the harvest appeal campaign. For example, the Oulu Ward, Jyväskylä Finland Stake, collected food for the Nada Nord charity, which sent it to those in need in Ukraine.
Members from the Lappeenranta Ward, in the same stake, brought food to a shelter for teenagers who grew up with parents who were drug addicts. When a young man saw the bananas and tangerines, he said he hadn’t eaten fruit in years. Others were grateful for ground beef, candy, and soda pop. The organizers explained that the young adults slipped through the net and rarely saw this kind of love.
Efforts at the Helsinki Finland Stake and the Tampere Finland Stake to serve local tables and those in need were also recognized on JustServe.org.
While the effort began with Harvest Appeal in October, the Elvidges continue to encourage JustServe volunteers to get involved in their local communities during the cold weather months to help people affected by food poverty.
They wrote: “This is a very practical way for us to demonstrate our concurrence with President Dallin H. Oaks’ recent statement: ‘The Church of Jesus Christ is committed to serving those in need, and it is committed with others in that effort to work together’” (“Serving the Poor and Afflicted,” Apr. 2022 general conference).