Salt Lake City recently witnessed a heartwarming display of interfaith cooperation and community service as 250 youth and 80 leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salem Utah Woodland Hills Stake) joined forces for a day of service. The event, part of the Urban Trek Youth Conference, covered 12 locations and totaled over 1,600 hours of volunteer work, engaging with various religious communities and nonprofits across the city.

The day kicked off at the historic First United Methodist Church, a landmark built in 1906 and home to Utah’s second-largest organ. Volunteers helped move furniture to prepare for renovations aimed at providing shelter for homeless families. Riley B., a youth who served, shared: “We went to the Methodist church and moved furniture so that they could house the homeless. It was really neat for me to see other religions and see how we are really all so similar and how we all just love God and want to serve Him. It also taught me a lot about serving without seeing the way it’ll affect others and seeing their joy but knowing you are making a difference which is something that was really cool for me to learn. I am so excited to start doing more of that kind of service.”

Another group served at The Other Side Academy, where volunteers worked in a thrift store supporting rehabilitation programs. By sorting donations and stocking shelves, the youth contributed to a cause dedicated to helping individuals reintegrate into society.

Welfare Square, managed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offered another site for service. Here, the youth learned about the church’s extensive outreach programs and the importance of addressing global needs. This experience provided them with a deeper understanding of the significance of their volunteer work.

A visit to the Chua Pho Quang Vietnamese Buddhist Temple stood out as a memorable experience. Reverend Tam, known for her hospitality, prepared a meal of egg rolls and fried rice for the volunteers. She said: “We had a great time and experience with you and your youth group; I really appreciate your service. It’s blessed my heart with your kindness.”

The group also served at Fill the Pot Ministries, where Reverend Ragsdale and his wife, Toni, shared their mission to aid the homeless, inspired by their own experiences. The welcoming atmosphere emphasized the importance of community and compassion.

At the Krishna Temple, volunteers prepared for the Holi Festival by cleaning and organizing the grounds, learning about the temple’s beliefs and practices in the process. This fostered a sense of understanding and appreciation for different faiths.

The Salt Lake City Cemetery provided a historical perspective, as youth cleaned graves of notable figures, including church leaders and historical personalities. This task instilled a sense of respect and connection to the past. Justin Kiesel from the Harvest Ridge Ward Elders Quorum Presidency shared: “We were able to serve at the cemetery cleaning up graves and The First Methodist Church. I loved watching the youth engage with so much optimism and positivity. They learned other churches bring great qualities and we share a desire to bring people to Christ.”

Heavy yard work awaited volunteers at the Heritage Baptist Church, where they tackled tasks like cutting down tall thistles. This physically demanding work and a discussion with Baptist leaders gave them insight into the church’s beliefs and values.

The Utah Food Bank offered another chance for service, with youth delivering boxes of food to homes in need. This highlighted the importance of empathy and action in addressing food insecurity.

Congregation Kol Ami, a Jewish community center, welcomed the youth into their community garden, which supplies free produce to those in need. This activity underscored the importance of sustainable support and community involvement.

Volunteers also beautified the grounds of Saint Catherine of Siena, a Catholic church near the University of Utah. Paisley Y., a youth who served, excitedly said “we got to pull weeds at a Catholic church! At the end Father Cody said a prayer and it was super cool to see how they say prayers in their religion!”

At Catholic Community Services’ St. Vincent de Paul, the volunteers prepared and served 850 meals per session, demonstrating the critical role of this organization in supporting those facing food insecurity.

Reflecting on the day, Brother Daniel Vincent remarked, “I felt everyone’s spirit everywhere we went. It was wonderful.” Reverend Ragsdale encapsulated the event’s spirit, stating, “At the end of the day, don’t we all just love God? Aren’t we all headed to the same place?”

This interfaith service event not only provided immediate aid to those in need but also strengthened bonds between diverse religious communities. The youth concluded the day with a newly acquired appreciation for the power of service and the unity that comes from working together with and for different faiths.