Sandy Willis was called as the stake Relief Society president a little over a year ago, and was looking around for a service opportunity that could involve the entire stake Relief Society. One of the Richmond branches had previously been involved in a service project for the YWCA shelter, and told Sandy about the condition of the facility, suggesting a type of “Trading Spaces” remodeling project. “As they were telling me about the shelter and the needs of the women there, the Spirit was so strong,” says Sandy. “I knew it was what we were supposed to do.”
After presenting the idea at the stake leadership meeting in November 2003, the project was presented to the ward and branch Relief Society presidencies at ward conferences in February 2004. “The enthusiasm of the Relief Society was wonderful. Everyone wanted to help,” Sandy says. Each presidency took one or two bedrooms as its ward project.
With the leadership in place, the wards began making plans for their rooms and the stake turned its efforts to fundraising. Donation invitations were sent throughout the community introducing “Project Uplift,” and two massive yard sales were set up at opposite ends of the stake. The community’s response was overwhelming. Donations started coming in ranging from bathroom towels to a $2,000 gift card from Home Depot. By late spring, enough money had been raised to begin. The Richmond branch started with the dining room and the entryway; then sights turned to the kitchen. The $1,700 the groups earned from the yard sales and the $2,000 Home Depot gift card were used to purchase new kitchen cabinets. Everything else, from the refrigerator down to the tile, was donated.
Dan King, a member of the stake and a general contractor, closed his business in order to coordinate the 630-plus man hours that went into the kitchen. Dan turned out to be the right man for the job in more ways than one. “He’s just a big teddy bear,” Sandy says of Dan. “The women in the shelter are so afraid of men, but Dan was someone they could trust. They all just learned to love him.”
In addition to the three straight weeks of work that went into the kitchen, wards worked on their bedrooms throughout the year. Each room took about three workdays to clean, paint, and reassemble. A lot of work was done off site during enrichment nights. Relief Society sisters assembled hygiene kits and made quilts, pajamas, and curtains using material donated by a fabric store.
“There were so many miracles; anytime we needed something, the right person stepped up,” says Sandy. In the end, stake youth, elder’s quorums, and skilled laborers from the community had all turned out to help. Their goal of finishing by the end of 2004 was accomplished. The neighboring Richmond Virginia Chesterfield Stake also pitched in, and beginning in 2005, will tackle the basement, which was severely damaged by flooding from hurricanes in 2004.
If you would like to help Project Uplift, please contact Sandy Willis at email@example.com.