In the summer of 2021, our congregation (Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Boise, Idaho) held a Resuming Ministries gathering as a way to re-engage after our COVID period. A number of members expressed interest in our congregation getting more involved in our community through volunteer activities. As this group met to explore possibilities, they learned about a volunteer ministry called HOP Day – Help Other People Day – in place at St. Mark Lutheran Church in Santa Rosa, California, where Beautiful Savior Pastor, Dennis Durham, had previously served.
After talking with the Santa Rosa team, we decided to give HOP Day a try. They also shared their HOP Day planning materials, which gave us a great head start. We began our planning by brainstorming how we could be of service to our community and then contacting local organizations about what help they might need. We also decided we’d provide service to individuals in our congregation who needed help, and to others we learned who might need help.
We held our first HOP Day on Oct. 23, 2021. We considered it a success based on what was accomplished that day and the response of our volunteers. As a result, we followed up with HOP Days in the spring and fall of 2022, and also the fall of 2023. About 35 volunteers participated in our first HOP Day. Because COVID was still a concern at that time, others took part by completing grab-and-go volunteer packs at home. Since then, we’ve had 50-80 volunteers of all ages – kids, teens, and adults – each HOP Day.
We’ve taken on a variety of projects to meet different needs in the community and to allow for the different skills, abilities, and ages of our volunteers. We’ve supported some organizations multiple times, but we also reached out to new organizations. And we continually ask our members for their ideas on possible projects and organizations to support. We hold HOP Day on a Saturday morning, ending by providing lunch, which is a wonderful time for volunteers to come back together and share their experiences.
Projects from our four HOP Days:
- Boise Rescue Mission: Spring cleaning at its Valley Women and Children’s Shelter, and multiple visits to rake up the grounds at Next Step, its transitional Christian community.
- St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital: Created banner kits and craft kits for the children to do, and sewed fun pillowcases for young patients.
- Ronald McDonald House: Decorated goodie bags used for snacks so parents can stay at their kid’s bedside without having to leave for food. Baked treats for guests staying there.
- Idaho Diaper Bank: Helped them prepare diapers for distribution.
- Assembled spring/summer and winter blessing bags for the homeless.
- Made cards for veterans at the VA’s Care Center and residents of a nearby care center, as well as for our homebound members.
- Baked goodies for nearby fire stations and homebound members.
- Put together jars of soup mixes containing everything to make a pot of soup. They were available at the church to give to anyone needing help with a meal.
- Created birthday party-in-a-box kits that contain all the essential items to throw a child’s birthday party. They are being given out at a local food pantry.
- Did outside clean-up and repairs for multiple individuals. We’ve helped out one of our neighbors with some major outside projects, and as a result, they’ve joined us to work on other HOP Day projects.
Leading up to each service day, we ask our members to also help by donating supplies needed for projects such as for the blessing bags, craft kits, and birthday boxes. Donation sign-up lists fill up quickly. We’re also very appreciative of Thrivent’s Action Teams program to help fund our projects.
In addition to connecting with the community through our projects, we reach out to our adjacent neighborhoods by distributing door hangers to ask people if they need any help and to invite them to join us on HOP Day. And we encourage our members to use HOP Day as a “Joining Jesus on His Mission” opportunity, whether by checking with a neighbor to learn if they need help with their outdoor chores or by inviting an acquaintance to join them in volunteering on HOP Day.
HOP Day has been an excellent ministry serving our community, as well as an excellent way for our members to join together and connect through shared service. There are a lot of smiles and laughter as we work together to serve others! The spirit of HOP Day was summed up perfectly by one of our youngest volunteers as she filled blessing bags for the homeless: “You know, I was thinking about HOP Day, and it made me think of that song we sing ‘They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love.’ ” What a great way to describe HOP Day!