Monday morning, we left for the USO at 8:30 am and joined Joyce Schellhorn (Director) along with plumbing contractors working on the restrooms. Pam went into the kitchen and did some cleaning and organizing before baking a cake for a competition Joyce was attending on Tuesday. I spent the morning doing odd jobs for Joyce. Mid-morning Beam’s brought a load of meat and other food for a weekly giveaway and we sorted the meat in coolers and put out boxed food and produce on the pool table. Joyce took pictures and posted to Facebook for military wives. Most of the day was spent preparing Christmas gifts for a family giveaway later in the month. The entire northern end of the center was filling up with donated gifts and bags were being filled for an Angel Tree project. We finally called it a day at 4:30 pm and drove to our apartment where we worked on Christmas cards.
Tuesday morning, Pam had a medical appointment at 8:00 am and then we were at the USO again at 10:30 am. Dave Ostrum opened the facility and showed us boxes of goodies and a mountain of toys that came in yesterday afternoon for processing. Pam worked in the office and I went with Margaret and Julie (volunteers) to the storage room and filled 100 bags of food for a food giveaway for Christmas. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived about 11:00 am and she and Dave went to the “Bistro” a restaurant on the beach for a Chamber of Commerce activity and took Pam’s cake for a baking competition. They returned a couple of hours later and Joyce reviewed what we had done and gave us more to do. A couple of new volunteers arrived in the afternoon and with their help we moved things into the attic for long-term storage and put some order to the storage room. We also cleaned up and arranged the lounge area for the evenings “hot chocolate and cookies with Santa” event for older children. James McCullough dressed Santa again and his wife took pictures. Pam and I left at 4:30 pm and it had been another long day for us and we were tired. We drove home and settled in for the evening. We called Bishop Stanley F. Ferreira of the Timuquana Ward and visited with him about Jacob NcNiven on the Naval Air Station. There was one active member on the station and he would make arrangements for him to contact Jacob about a ride to church.
Wednesday morning, we began the morning dropping off a dress Pam altered to Sister Johnson in our Zone. She was very pleased with the result. We continued on to the USO and Dave Ostrum had opened the facility. Pam worked in the office handling calls and updating toy lists. Dave and I sorted through a food donation from a local Montessori School. When done I brought about 60 of the food bags put together on Tuesday into the back-office room and then set up a table in the outside storage room and put together 25 more food bags for NAS Jacksonville USO. While involved in that Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived and she and Pam worked on Toy lists. In the afternoon I also worked in the Toy room unwrapping presents that came in earlier in the week. All the Toys given are unwrapped, so parents could what was being given. Two other volunteers and I took the presents and put them on tables by category if they weren’t committed to a particular individual. After the volunteers left Pam and I filled Toy bags with extra toys and finished about 10 bags. Dave planned to commence calling parents to let them know the Toys were ready to pick up. At 5:00 pm Sisters Davis and Paulsen came to the center and we took them to the Naval Station for dinner. First, we dropped off some diapers for Shay Tuttle and then drove around showing the sisters the station and some ships before having dinner. We met the manager, Ms. Mony, and had a nice visit with her. She was the sister of a Sister Wang who was at church Sunday with her husband. Ms. Mony had lived in Utah (Salt Lake) for about 14 years but was not a member. After dropping the Sister’s off at their car at the USO, we drove to our apartment for the night.
Thursday morning, we opened the USO this morning at 8:00 am and let the contractors in but there was no bread and pastries. Also surprised that a line of people began assembling outside waiting to get tickets to a “Little Drummer Boy” concert by a Christian Rock band that was advertised last night in a special “USO Blast.” Bread and Pastries were delivered about 8:45 am and Dave Ostrum came with the tickets about 9:15 am, so we had a hectic first hour. After the tickets were gone, Dave left, and Pam worked in Toy area and I took care of the office checking in patrons and calling families to come for Christmas Food Baskets. The phone rang constantly about the special tickets and Jaguar tickets and people wanting to talk with Joyce, so it was a busy morning. Dave returned at 10:30 am and Julie (volunteer) came and worked with Pam and finally Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived at noon. Another couple of volunteers joined Pam and Julie so there were many hands working and they got a lot done. By 2:00 pm I had made it through the entire phone list once but had to leave a lot of messages. Also gave out about 20 food baskets and meat to families as they responded to the calls. Pam and I left at 4:00 pm and returned home as we had missionaries coming for dinner. At the apartment Pam worked on the meal of Spaghetti and Meatballs and also baked a pan of Brownies. I set the table and at 6:00 am Elders Smedley and Hendricks arrived. They lived in the Avia Apartments with us, but we seldom saw them. Elder Smedley was from Pocatello and Elder Hendricks from Alpine. We enjoyed having them in our home and visiting with them and learning about missionary work here in the Arlington area. Elder Smedley left a message and then they departed at 7:00 pm. We cleaned up the kitchen and did the dishes and settled in for the night.
Friday morning, it was raining and continued to rain throughout the day. We left for the USO at 9:30 am Joyce Schellhorn (Director) had opened and there had been a delivery from Beams so food and boxes were everywhere. Joyce had Pam make some soup, so she spent most of her morning in the kitchen cooking and cleaning and arranging. I cleaned up the boxes from Beams and helped get the food arranged for pictures and posting and then spent the balance of the morning in the office making phone calls for patrons to come and pickup food baskets, also checking in patrons and giving out food baskets and sacks of toys to patrons who responded to calls. Margaret and Julie (volunteers) were with us again. Margaret making calls and Julie working in the Toy room. We continued the process throughout the afternoon giving out food and Toys and working on new Toy bags and visiting with the patrons. While working in the office a young man came in for a Food bag pickup and recognized my missionary tag and indicated he attended the Fort Caroline Ward. His name was Stuart Kaestner and was a single father and lived on Beach Blvd. I got his contact information and he welcomed a visit, so that was great. It was a busy day and the phone was going constantly. Pam and I left at 3:45 pm and had a late lunch and then to JoAnn’s for Pam to buy some stretch lace and to Costco for some water and food. We arrived back at our apartment in the evening and settled in for the night.
Saturday morning was quiet and restful for us. By 9:00 am Pam began working in the kitchen on Christmas gifts and I cleaned the apartment and kept laundry going. I called Jacob McNiven, a Marine at NAS Jax and checked on him. A member of the Timuquana Ward had contacted him and so he had an opportunity to attend church tomorrow. He would leave for Texas on the 21st and would return a married man, but his wife was staying in Texas until Jacob’s temporary duty was completed. At noon we drove to the Alexander’s and had a nice visit with Tara and later with Wes and the children when they arrived home. We had lunch at a local eatery and then drove to the St. John’s Center to do some shopping and what a traffic mess. The entire shopping mall was in gridlock. We finally made our way to Target and parked and shopped and then took another 20 minutes to get out of the parking lot and onto the city streets. Eventually we made our way back to Arlington Hills and our apartment. Pam continued working on Christmas gifts and I made the bed and wrote a letter to FTM missionaries in particular areas where we seldom go, asking for their help in getting information on military families.
Sunday morning, we arrived at the Jacksonville Beach Ward at 9:45 am and greeted ward members and hoped to see our families but only Tyler, the Jarvis’ and Noblits were there today. The meetings were excellent, and Brother and Sister Spackman spoke prior to their mission to the Ivory Coast early next year. We had a combined 3rd hour and the Bishopric each spoke and outlined Sunday activities for next year and how things would change and the repercussions of the changes. They did a nice job and hopefully we could all get on board. Following the block, we took William home (Sisters contact) and then returned to our apartment and had a quick lunch. At 2:45 pm we returned to the Beach and picked up the Elders Crandall & Beals and drove to the Dunn Avenue chapel for a musical program titled a “Genesis Christmas Devotional.” The Genesis Group in Salt Lake City was established in October 1971 by the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a dependent branch to serve the needs of African-American Latter-day Saints. The name here in Florida was used to denote African-American programs for the Church and Brother Wiley & Beatrice Darden of the Dunn Avenue Ward had led this Devotional program for several years, inviting talented African-American musicians and clergy from local churches to participate in the devotional along local members of the church. Pam and I took seats in the chapel at 4:45 pm and Missionaries from Kingsland, Jax East, Jax West and Mandarin Zones were present, so the place was awash with Missionaries visiting, hugging and having a good time. Eventually there was a large congregation of members from the Dunn Avenue Ward and other surrounding Wards and community friends gathered for the Devotional. President & Sister Lee were on the front row and we later learned that President Heywood (Stake) was in the chapel also. Bishop Packard welcomed everyone and turned the time to Sister Darden and she invited the Missionary Choir up and Sister Lee led them in “Call to Serve” and then a community friend came up and offered a prayer rich in Gospel tradition. Sister Darden announced each number and there were many solos and small groups singing numbers which highlighted the life and mission of the Savior and were very beautiful and also entertaining with a lot of hand clapping, standing, foot stomping and smiles everywhere. Quite an evening. Sister Newman and Roberts sang a duet and they were spectacular and fit right in with the feeling of the devotional. Finally, a Choir from the Dunn Avenue Ward sang, and the Missionary Choir came up again and concluded the meeting followed by another closing prayer from a friend of the church. It was a wonderful evening and such a sweet spirit among the attendees. We met many of the participants and another new senior couple who had been in the field for 4 days and were serving in the Hillard Branch. We corralled Elder Crandall and Beals and departed, returning to Jacksonville Beach and depositing them at their apartment and then returned to our apartment and settled in the for the night. Quite a conclusion to a busy week.
Elder Smedley & Hendricks over for dinner with us
Dave Ostrum (USO) with Montessori School faculty at USO