Monday, January 28, 2019

Week 51 (21 - 27 January)

             Monday morning was MLK day so slept in this morning and didn’t get up until almost 7:00 am (record)! Wrote the weekly Blog and got it published and then studied for an hour. When Pam was up, we did some laundry and cleaning and at noon drove to a couple of military members’ homes, but neither were in so couldn’t confirm their status. We shopped and had lunch at Costco and then returned to our apartment in mid-afternoon. Planned to do something significant but ended up laying down and promptly going to sleep! We had a pretty quiet MLK day. Called the Mason’s in Orange Park and talked with Michael and learned about his family and status. Seemed to be a good family and would be in Jacksonville for over 2 years as an Army recruiter. Received texts from Alexis and she was celebrating a significant accomplishment at the clinic over the weekend and was doing fine.

Tuesday morning, we left for the USO at 9:30 am and the place was busy. Coast Guard personnel were helping to get ready for another food giveaway on Wednesday and those young men and women did a wonderful job throughout the day. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) opened the facility and Pam and I were the only volunteers. Throughout the morning we received donation after donation from organizations and individuals. Seemed like the back door was a loading dock as load after load of food and commodities came into the facility and were stacked in the middle of the room. A decision was made to open up the south side of the main room as the north side was completely filled with food and commodities. All non-food products were placed on the tables on the south side and the north side reserved for food items, so we spent the morning going through the donations and vetting all the food and placing the items on their respective tables. Pam worked in the office with Joyce as the phone was ringing off the wall concerning donations and she also had a floor full of small individual donations that she was going through. We also received two large donations of bread and pastries from Publix and also from a bread distribution center and the pool table and 3 other tables were awash with bread and pastry products. At 2:00 pm I made a deposit for Joyce and also helped her count gift cards she had received throughout the morning. I was astounded at the generosity of the community—hundreds of cards totaling thousands of dollars, not to mention cash and all the food and commodity donations. Two news stations came during the day interviewing several Coast Guard personnel and Mike O'Brien (Executive) about the effort to help the Coast Guard families during the government shutdown period. At 3:00 pm Joyce told us to leave as the pace slowed down considerably and we had everything sorted and taken care of.

Wednesday morning, we arrived at the USO shortly after 9:00 am. The parking lot was filling up and the Coast Guard Chiefs association was there to help with the food distribution, and it looked like they had things in hand. Joyce didn’t have anything particular for us to do, so Pam and Carmel (another volunteer) went into the kitchen and cooked “sloppy Joes” for lunch and I worked in and out of the office processing donations and helping where needed. Food distribution actually began at 9:30 am and we had a steady flow of families until 1:00 pm and it was fun watching them as they walked up and down the tables checking out the food and paper products and filling boxes, bags, shopping carts, etc. with things they needed. A great outpouring of support from the community. Around noon Joyce asked if I would go to the Navy Exchange and take 8 gift cards and have them checked to determine their value. I located Pam, the manager, and she took care of it for me and they were all $25 cards. I also made a deposit for Joyce while I was out. By 1:30 pm things had slowed down considerably, and we helped consolidate the tables and then Pam and I left for the day. Tomorrow was another food day as Feeding Northeast Florida was coming with produce and meat for the Coast Guard and all E-6 and below Navy families. We returned home to our apartment and Pam prepared a meal for the Arlington Sisters who joined us for dinner at 5:30 pm. Sister Dreiling and Abril were real characters and we enjoyed having them in our home. Sister Dreiling grew up in Colorado but was from Logan and came from a less active home and only decided on a mission recently. Sister Abril from Corona, California was a convert of a few years, so they both had stories to tell. After they left a message, we had a prayer with them and they left, and we cleaned up the kitchen and called it a night.

Thursday morning, we arrived at the USO at 9:15 am and the Feeding Northeast Florida truck was unloading in the back-parking lot and the Coast Guard Chiefs Association were helping and had 3 tents setup to cover a half dozen tables getting ready for families. We went inside and the food and commodities wings of the center were closed, and learned that patrons would be checked in and taken directly through the center to the tables out back where there was meat, fresh produce and other commodities. Dave Ostrum was running things until Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived about 10:00 am. We had a few other volunteers, Julie Davis and Pam from the Navy Exchange. Pam and I worked in the office, Pam checking in patrons and myself vetting donations as they came in. Julie and Pam (Exchange) took down names and other vital information for the Coast Guard and directed the families out back and Coast Guard chiefs were station at the doors and out back to help with the food distribution. We had a busy morning with hundreds of families and individuals coming for donations. Coast Guard Officers set up our grills and cooked hamburgers and hot-dogs for families, so it was a festive morning. Pam and I continued to be amazed at the generosity of the people here in the Beach Communities. Truckloads of items continued to come in and thousands of dollars’ worth of gift cards and cash were donated. At 11:30 am the event was opened to Navy families, E-6 and below, so we had another influx of people, but it wasn’t bad. I had texted Tara Alexander, Shay Tuttle, Samantha Lagae and Nikki Head about the event and Shay Tuttle came with her baby and Tony Head also attended. I made a trip to the NEX for Joyce to validate gift cards but when I returned the flow of patrons was almost ended and Coast Guard volunteers were consolidating things inside and outside to help the USO prepare for a No Dough dinner on Monday. Most of what was left would be put into the outside storage food pantry for next week’s events for the Coast Guard. The USO was committed to continuing the distribution as long as the shutdown continued. Pam and I said our goodbyes and left for the day.

Friday morning began early for us as we left the apartment at 7:30 am to perform missionary apartment inspections for 3 sets of sisters and 3 sets of elders all in the Jacksonville East Zone. We enjoy meeting the missionaries, even early in the morning and their apartments looked good with some minor issues that needed to be corrected, mainly changing filters and cleaning that needed to be done. From the last apartment we drove to the USO, arriving at 10:30 am. Dave Ostrum was there along with volunteers Carmel and Jim. Several Coast Guard personnel were loading the USO truck with food and commodities to take to a Coast Guard Helicopter Interdiction Squadron (HITRON) at Cecil Field. They also helped me set up the main room for the No Dough dinner on Monday and we were done in no time. Dave had planned to take the truck to Cecil but had injured himself and wasn’t feeling well. I told him I would make the trip. Pam was going to accompany me, but the passenger seat full of commodities also, so she stayed at the USO. I programmed the location into my phone and headed toward Cecil Field (former Naval Air Station) and wandered around a bit but eventually found the building and was met by Coast Guard personnel who quickly emptied the truck and were very appreciative of the donations. I had been on the base in 1986 for night vision training and at that time it was home to A6, A7 and A4 Attack aircraft. The drive back to the USO was uneventful, and Joyce Schellhorn (Director) was there and Dave had gone home. Pam met me and said, “guess what Joyce gave us?” I had no idea, but she opened up an envelope which had two tickets to tonight’s performance of Les Misérables at the Times-Union Center in downtown Jacksonville. We knew the national touring group was in town, but tickets were very expensive, so we never seriously considered attending. Two tickets had been donated to the USO and Joyce gave them to us—what a gift! After some discussion about Monday’s No Dough activities we said our goodbyes and left for Arlington Hills. We had a late lunch and then returned to our apartment and looked up the location of the theater and purchased some parking passes and then relaxed for the rest of the afternoon. At 6:45 pm we headed downtown, and we quickly located our parking area across the street from the theater. People were waiting inside for the Moran Theater doors to open and we watched with interest the variety of people in various styles of dress from casual to formal wear. A couple came by and looked at our name tags and introduced themselves, Steven & Deborah Mortensen. They were members from the Bartram Trails Branch of the Jacksonville South Stake. However, they had moved to St. Augustine from the Jacksonville Beach area before we arrived, and he had served as Ward Mission Leader. We had a very interesting discussion with them for about 15 minutes until the theater doors opened and then went inside and found our seats—very nice seats indeed. Our only introduction to Les Misérables was the movie which we saw a few years ago, but this performance was equally as wonderful with beautiful staging and the most wonderful music. The cast was a national traveling cast and were very professional and performed beautifully. The entire performance took just under three hours with an intermission about 90 minutes into the performance. While waiting I stood up and looked around and a lady just behind us two seats over introduced herself as “Sister Camille Alexander” from the Fort Caroline ward and a young woman next to her was a daughter-in-law from one of the Mandarin wards. Sister Alexander’s husband had been the Bishop when we arrived and was now a high councilor in the Jacksonville East Stake. We had a delightful visit with them for 10 minutes and then the production began again and proceeded to a most dramatic conclusion. It had been a wonderful evening, one we would never forget and a much appreciated the gift. 

Saturday morning, we left at 8:00 am for Jacksonville Beach to finish apartment inspections with the full-time missionaries. We first met with Sisters Paulsen and Topham (Sister Davis was on exchanges with Sister Wasden). Next, we visited Sister Roderick and Horikami in the Hendricks District and then Elders Cigarroa and Castillo in the San Jose District followed by Elders Birchall and McCormick also in the San Jose District. These last three appointments were new for us, but we enjoyed meeting these young men and women. They all lived in nice facilities which had been used by missionaries for years. We were near the St. John’s Center and returned an item at Joanne’s and then headed back to Arlington Hills with a stop for lunch and also at Wal-Mart where we bought some furnace filters for the missionaries and to a Dollar Store to purchase some microwave covers, also for the missionaries. Finally, at 4:00 pm we were done and returned to our apartment for the evening. I entered the information on apartment inspection forms and emailed them to Elder Alexander, the housing coordinator. Pam started laundry and had a long visit with Ann Marie and also Erin and everyone seemed to be doing fine.

Sunday morning, we left for ward conference in the Jacksonville Beach ward in a steady rainstorm. We entered the chapel and Shay Tuttle was there with her baby, Jenny Black and Olivia, the Jarvis’ and Tyler Gneck with a friend from work. Samantha and Clive were sick today and so the Lagae’s stayed home. Sacrament began on time and we enjoyed having the stake family with us; President Heywood and counselors and others. After the ward business President Bridegan stood and conducted the sustaining of General Authorities, Stake Leaders and Ward Leaders. It was always nice to go through this process occasionally. Following the sacrament, we heard from Bishop Currie and then from President Heywood. Both gave wonderful messages and bore strong testimonies. In the second hour the adults met in the chapel and the youth in the young women’s room and the Primary did their normal thing. President Bridegan and Heywood both spoke in the adult meeting and talked about testimony bearing and the need to bear simple pure testimonies—not talks, not stories. This direction came from an area meeting in Atlanta last year presided over by Elder Bednar where this subject was emphasized. President Lee mentioned it in our last zone conference and he always encouraged missionaries to take less than a minute in bearing their testimonies. There were a couple of comments from those who insisted stories were so good, but President Heywood reiterated there was a time and place for those—talks, firesides, in family councils, etc. Testimony meetings were for pure testimony. Great council. Following the meeting we visited for a few minutes and then braved the rain and head to the Naval Station where we took lunch to Samantha Lagae. The surprise was the quiet in her home. Clive and the girls were napping. Pam fixed lunch for Sam and we visited for a few minutes and then left and returned to our apartment. We had some leftovers and a pizza for lunch/dinner and spent a quiet afternoon watching some byutv programming and napping. At 5:30 pm we stirred and dressed again to attend a musical fireside at the Beach this evening. Sister Davis and Paulsen had organized the event about a month ago and we planned to attend. Sisters Dreiling and Abrim rode with us and missionaries from the Jax East and Mandarin zones were assembling, and President & Sister Lee were there with Sister Lee’s sister. They practiced “One by One” and it was beautiful. At 7:00 pm the fireside began with Brother Simmons conducting. President Button and Bishop Currie were also on the stand. The programmed followed an opening prayer and it was a beautiful night of music and spoken word from “The Living Christ” the testimony of the first presidency and quorum of the twelve. Music consisted of a missionary choir, vocal duets, solos, small groups, instrumental pieces involving the piano, violin, cello and harp—about 12 numbers in all. Sister Newman and Elder Carter did the narration of the Living Christ between the numbers and the overall effect was wonderful. Bishop Currie was invited to offer some parting words and then following the closing prayer refreshments were provided in the back section of the cultural hall. We were also invited to attend the opening of Elder Beal’s mission call from the brethren. His 2-transfer mission had been successful, and he was recommended to continue missionary service. We met in the relief society room and Sister Lee face timed with his parents as he opened his call to the Florida Jacksonville Mission (which is what he wanted). He would enter the MTC on the 6th of February and then return to continue is mission here. He was really excited, and the missionaries were excited for him. He’s been a great missionary. We gathered up Sister Dreiling and Abril and braved the rain again and headed back to Arlington Hills where we dropped them off at their apartment and then returned to ours. It had been a wonderful day only topped by a Marco Polo call from Andrew and Sarah and family. 
 Food donations for the Coast Guard at the USO
 Food donations for the Coast Guard at the USO
Commodity donations for the Coast Guard at the USO
 Bread & Pastry donations for the Coast Guard at the USO
 News team reporting  the event
 Elder Smedley & Hendricks at home for dinner
 Sister Dreiling & Abril at home for dinner
Sister Dreiling & Abril at home for dinner

Monday, January 21, 2019

Week 50 (14 - 20 January)

             Monday morning, we published our weekly blog and enjoyed a quiet morning. At 11:00 am we drove to Mayport Naval Station and purchased tickets to the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine and then spent a half an hour at the USO introducing Janet to Joyce Schellhorn (Director), Dave Ostrum and Charlie Tramazzo. I showed Janet the facility and we also got an update on what was happening at the USO. We had lunch at a local Whataburger (Janet’s choice) and it was quite wonderful. Following lunch, we made our way south on A1A to St. Augustine and enjoyed the drive and the sights. First on our list of things to do was a trip to the Alligator Farm on Anastasia Island. It was busy, but not overcrowded and the alligators, crocodiles, birds and other reptiles were fun to watch. Again, Pam and I were impressed with the quality of the park and Janet enjoyed everything. Back in St. Augustine we had planned to ride the trolley, but it was quite cold, so chose instead to just drive the streets and view the town from the warmth of our van. That turned out to be a good choice and we enjoyed the beautiful architecture and restored homes, businesses and restaurants. Unfortunately, the Castillo de San Marcos (Fort) was closed due to the government shutdown, but we were able to drive by and catch a little of the majesty of that edifice. At 4:30 pm we left St. Augustine and took the Nocatee Parkway and Palm Valley Road back to highway A1A and continued north to Mayport to have dinner at Singleton’s Seafood Shack at the suggestion of Joyce and it was very good and the amount of food amazing. We arrived back at our apartment after dark—an enjoyable day.

Tuesday morning was a leisurely morning and we finally left the apartment at 11:30 am and drove to the Mandarin area to have lunch at Tijuana Flats. Janet was hungry for some good Mexican food and we weren’t disappointed. We located the restaurant just off of Old St. Augustine Road and it was Taco Tuesday and Pam and Janet enjoyed the meal. Following lunch, we drove across the St. John’s river and on to Jacksonville Naval Air Station. For the next hour we drove around the base showing Janet all the places I remembered and many I didn’t. There had been so much change since 1987, but it was fun to see the buildings, recreational facilities and lines of P-8’s and P-3’s along the flight line. After stopping at the static display park and discussing the various aircraft on display, we left the base via the Yorktown gate and returned to our apartment in Arlington Hills. Pam started laundry and we spent a quiet afternoon and evening visiting.

Wednesday morning, we were up early and left for the airport at 6:15 am as Janet had an 8:00 am flight to Salt Lake City. It had been a quick week for us, but we certainly appreciated Janet’s visit—a real shot in the arm. At 8:30 am I took Pam to the Alexander’s where she babysat for Trista and Kyler while Tara went to a doctor’s appointment. I drove to the USO, arriving shortly after 9:00 am and Charlie Tramazzo had opened, and Julie Davis was in the office. I walked around to see what had been going on during the past week and the north end was closed and tables set up filled with food. They had been having food drives for Coast Guard families since last Friday and would continue until Coast Guard members began receiving pay checks (Government Shutdown). We received donations all morning long as requests went out over TV and Facebook for food and commodities, especially baby items, dry goods and pet food. I put out donations on the various tables and cleaned out the recycle bins in the office. Pam called at 11:00 am and said Wes was home and she wasn’t needed any longer, so I picked her up and returned to the USO where we stayed until 3:00 pm. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) arrived about 1:30 pm and we visited and talked about this latest donation program and our involvement tomorrow in picking up an order from our Bishop’s Storehouse on the west side. Dave Ostrum went over this morning and took a tour of the storehouse and placed an order. Sister Ladd of the Fort Caroline ward had called Monday evening requesting information on the USO and the Coast Guard situation. She indicated the storehouse was prepared to make a $1,000 donation in food and commodities for the Coast Guard and we directed her to Joyce and the arrangements for food and the tour were made. We were quite pleased with those turn of events. After leaving the USO we drove back to Arlington Hills and had a late lunch and then returned to our apartment. The Lagae’s invited us to their home later in the evening to discuss the gospel. We arrived at 7:30 pm and the kids were in bed, so it was nice and quiet. We spent the next two hours listening to them tell of their aspirations for the future and discussed living the gospel, need for the Melchizedek priesthood and Temple preparation. We stressed the need to begin with “little steps.” We left feeling great and looked forward to more such meetings.

Thursday morning, we opened the USO and turned on everything. Bread and Pastries had been delivered so we got them ready for patrons and then worked on loads of donations that had come in since yesterday for the Coast Guard food giveaway on Friday. Everything was being put in the north dining area and there certainly was a lot of food and commodities available. Charlie Tramazzo arrived, and Julie Davis came later in the morning, so we had plenty of help. Another major food delivery came at 10:00 am and we unloaded boxes of meat into the outside storage room and was found room in the freezers and reefers out there. Dave Ostrum arrived at 11:30 am and we confirmed an appointment he made with the Bishop’s Storehouse in West Jacksonville and we left at noon to bring the food order back to the USO. We met Brother Artis Hudnall (manager) and he got the order ready and within 30 minutes we were loading the van with boxes and boxes of fresh vegetables and fruit, cases of spaghetti and sauce, eggs, plus bread and meat for hamburgers. The veggies and fruit were some of the best we had seen here in Florida. We returned to the USO and Dave and Joyce met us but were uncertain what they were going to do with everything. We unloaded the produce onto the tables on the patio while they discussed storage. We helped where we could but left at 3:30 pm and returned to Arlington Hills and had an early dinner at the Golden Corral and then returned to our apartment. I texted Shay Tuttle and got an update on Chris who was underway and checked on her and the baby.

Friday morning, we arrived at the USO at 9:00 am and the parking lot was already filling up. Inside there were people everywhere and the Chief Petty Officer Association of the Coast Guard was helping get ready for the food distribution. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) had opened and things were moving along fine. Dave Ostrum was loading a USO pickup truck with boxes of food to take to a Coast Guard facility at Cape Canaveral and he left by 9:30 am. The Command Master Chief (CMC) of the Coast Guard, directed his men and women and by 9:45 am we were ready to begin as families started arriving. Julie Davis, a volunteer, worked at the front desk, Pam worked with several volunteers checking in new donations, ensuring food was current, date wise, and I was inside and out doing odd jobs, ensuring food and commodities were available as tables opened up. We also had a grill going outside and I provided tables, plates, utensils, and desserts for the luncheon of hamburgers and hot dogs for the families. During the day we received two large deliveries of food from a food sharing organization in Arlington and then another huge delivery from Beams at 2:00 pm. In both cases the Chiefs helped immensely in bringing in meat and groceries and placing them on the tables. At 11:30 am Joyce and Charlie Tramazzo left for a Staff Meeting with Mike Brian (Executive), so Pam and I were the senior USO people around and it felt pretty uncomfortable. However, we had a steady flow of families throughout the day and felt like we served well over 100 families. The biggest issue was meat. We had boxes of chicken, beef and pork that had to be taken because all the freezers and coolers were full. Pam and I were released at 3:00 pm as the rush diminished. The chiefs were magnificent and helped patrons with food selections, directing them around the facility and helping them out to their cars. What was most important was that patrons could take as much as they wanted—no restrictions. Channel 47 and 4 were there throughout the day doing photo coverage and interviews with patrons and with Mike Brian and other USO personnel and their stories appeared on the 6:00 pm news broadcasts. We drove back to Arlington Hills and had an early dinner and then on to our apartment. Pam had a long visit with Erin and Ann Marie. I made some phone calls and got a return call from a young man who had been in the YSA Branch but was out of the Navy, living in California.

Saturday morning, I took the van to be washed and vacuumed and then back at the apartment we cleaned and began a couple of loads of laundry. We texted all the singles in the Jacksonville Beach Ward about tomorrow’s meetings and got responses from two. At noon we drove to the St. John’s Center and had lunch and then stopped at Joanne’s and bought a light bulb for Pam’s new sewing machine. From there we did a little shopping at Costco before returning to our apartment for the day. Made several phone calls to military member families and updated our contact book. Pam had a long visit with Johanna in the evening.  

Sunday morning, we left for church at 9:15 am and picked up a member family for the sisters; April Johnson and her three children Dane, Mahalia and Bella. They had moved north from Palatka and the sisters were teaching Mahalia and getting her ready for baptism. Samantha & Jerald Lagae and their children were at church along with Jenny & Rich Black and Olivia, also Lance & Stephanie Jarvis, but none of our singles or the Heads, Tuttle’s or Noblit’s were there today. Sacrament meeting was excellent, and Sister Davis was invited to speak prior to going home in 3 weeks. John Bryson also spoke and did a fine job. After the meeting the children and youth went to their classes and the adults settled down in the chapel and Sunday school commenced with an excellent lesson by Brother Hardy. A lot of good comments given and a good spirit present. Following the meeting we visited for a few minutes and then loaded up the Johnson’s and returned them to their home. Before leaving the Beach, we went on base and visited the Head’s and Tony was home from Norfolk, Va., but Nikki said Caleb had a sore throat, so they stayed home. At home in Arlington Hills, Pam fixed dinner for us and we ate and watched some programming on I did some work on our mission scrapbook and made a few calls and sent out texts and learned that Tyler Gneck had just returned from Savannah, Ga where he spent the weekend with friends. Quiet end to a busy week.

Pam & Janet watching Alligators and Crocodiles
There's a big one!
Pam & Janet in the Kids Zone
Large group just laying out in the sun
Pam & Janet looking at a stuffed Alligator about 18 feet long
Janet as Bait!
A tearful goodbye, but a wonderful visit--thanks Janet!
Crowds at the USO on Food Distribution Day for the US Coast Guard families
Pam and other volunteers checking in donations
Typical load of food and supplies for a family
Hamburgers and Hot Dogs for lunch at the USO

Monday, January 14, 2019

Week 49 (7 - 13 January)

            Monday morning, we left for the USO at 8:45 am. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) opened. The business of the day was preparing the meal for the “no dough” dinner tonight. Pam went into the kitchen to check on the chicken that was cooked on Friday and it looked and tasted good. She began shredding the meat and others arrived and helped. Dave Ostrum went shopping for the odds and ends to make Nacho’s and Margaret and Mike arrived as did Julie Davis and the mother-daughter team, so we had a lot of help in the kitchen cooking hamburger and cutting veggies. I spent the morning preparing the main room—set up the chairs, washed tables, brought out the “sneeze guards” for the salad and dessert tables, set up the drink table and put out the utensil and napkins dispensers. Later in the morning I brought out desserts and let them defrost. By noon most of the heavy lifting was done and we paused for lunch. Pam and I went out and enjoyed getting away for a little while. In the afternoon the kitchen staff finished up the small stuff and I worked in the storage room cleaning and moving Christmas bins into the attic. By 4:00 pm volunteers began arriving to help with dinner and the primary sponsor was the Rotary Club of San Jose. By 5:00 pm there was plenty of help and Patrons began arriving and dinner began. Pam and I manned a table by the foyer and passed out Subway cards with $6.00 on them and also bags of caramels. The dinner was a big hit, and everyone seemed to enjoy the food. The kitchen kept up with the rush and we ended up the night with just over 200 served. For us the highlight of the night was the arrival of the Head family, Tony, Nickki and their two boys Caleb and Matty. They visited with us and the boys gave hugs. Following them came the Lagae family, Sam & Jerald with Eleanor, Fiona and Clive and we had another nice visit and more hugs, and finally, Stephanie and Lance Jarvis came, and it was good to see them also. So, it was a bonus night for us. All 3 families visited with each other and that is what we would have hoped for. Pam and I stayed for cleanup—Pam in the kitchen and I helped in the main room and by 8:00 pm everything was done with some good work by several volunteers and of course James McCullough. We drove back to our apartment and our bed looked wonderful.

Tuesday morning, we started at the USO at 9:00 am. Joyce Schellhorn (Director) had opened and stayed for 2 hours and then left to take care of some personal items. Pam spent the morning in the kitchen cleaning and putting things away and I worked with two volunteers, Chelsey and Ann, loading boxes of items to be shipped to USO’s in the middle east. We filled them with hygiene kits, soap, lotions, dental and hair items, etc. We got a lot done and Joyce now had 60 boxes to mail. Dave arrived about 11:00 am but stayed in the office most of the time covering the phones and checking in patrons. The plumbers were back this morning for about an hour checking on many issues—leaks, toilets and showers that didn’t work, etc. Who knew when the bathroom renovation would be over? A safety inspection was held yesterday and now there were several significant issues with electricity that had to be resolved. Pam and I left about 3:00 pm and drove to the Dutton Reserve on Neptune Beach to look at the marshes and it was quite beautiful. There were several places around Neptune Beach where you could walk right out into the marshes on long wooden walkways. We then drove to the chapel and took a nap in the parking lot waiting for an hour to pass before picking up the sisters for dinner. At 5:00 pm we drove to their apartment and picked up Sister Davis and Dreiling (Sister Dreiling was on exchange’s and Sister Paulsen was with Sister Abril in Arlington). We settled on Bono’s for dinner and it was very good, and we enjoyed being with the sisters and sharing an hour. They were very devoted and hard-working sisters and we felt their spirit and enjoyed their message.

Wednesday morning, we departed for the USO at 8:30 am and opened the facility. Within 20 minutes Carmel and Jim (volunteers) arrived. They were snowbirds from New England and it was nice to see them, and they took over the office duties. Ann, one of the community service girls from yesterday came and I put her to work cleaning windows. Joyce called at 10:00 am and we asked about labeling the boxes she is shipping to the Middle East and then Ann helped me put on the address labels and customs forms. We set up in the children’s room and, Carmel joined us and then Chelsey, also from yesterday, came and so the four of us knocked out the project fairly quickly. Dave Ostrum also arrived mid-morning and we talked about the “No Dough” storage room. The main shelfing system had to be moved as it was too close to a circuit breaker box. Last evening, the shelves were emptied and all the boxes from the room moved out and the shelf system moved. A second smaller shelf system was discarded and what surprised me was Dave said they were not going to replace it and he intended to stack boxes and items on the floor. So, with that bit of knowledge I didn’t do anything in that room. At noon we were finished and left for the day. We had some lunch and then returned to our apartment and set up the guest bathroom for Janet to use. We drove to JIA at 5:00 pm and Janet’s plane arrived on time and it was wonderful to see her coming down the escalator. Pam and I welcomed her to Jacksonville. We returned to Arlington Hills and stopped at Crispers for something to eat and enjoyed a meal and visiting. She brought us up to date on happenings in Monroe and changes in our ward. It was amazing how that little town could change in such a short period of time. Finally, we arrived at our apartment and got Janet situated in the guest room and then settled in the living room and visited until about 9:30 pm when I called it a night. Pam and Janet continued for another hour.

Thursday morning, we were up early and on our way to the Hendricks Stake Center by 7:45 am for Zone Conference. We introduced Janet to President & Sister Lee and they were very gracious and welcomed her to the conference. After the missionaries assembled in the chapel, we spent the morning receiving wonderful instruction from both President & Sister Lee and the assistants to the President, Elder’s Vaughn and Boehme. President Lee concluded the morning instruction with information about the incorporation of parts of the Macon Georgia and Tallahassee Florida missions into the Jacksonville mission in June/July of this year. That would almost double the mission in size and included approximately 75 new missionaries. Also, during the morning, President Lee welcomed Janet, had her stand and introduce herself, invited her to bear her testimony. At lunch she joined the new missionaries and food preparers while missionaries sang “Called to Serve.”  She was overwhelmed by their generosity and said, “this may be the highlight of my trip.” Following lunch, we left the conference and returned to our apartment and changed clothes and went for a drive. We crossed the Dames’ Pt Bridge and took Heckscher road towards the Kingsley Plantation. Unfortunately, it was closed due to the Government shutdown. We did drive around St. George Island and showed her the beautiful trees, marshes, etc. We returned to the Ferry Landing and crossed the St. John River to Mayport. On the base we walked on the beach and saw dolphins out in the water. We toured the base and showed Janet various ships tied up at the piers. While doing that Pam received a text from Samantha Lagae asking how the visit was going and when she learned we were on the base asked if we wanted to tour Jerald’s ship today instead of tomorrow? We said “yes” and drove to their home and Janet met Jerald and Sam and the children. At 6:00 pm we drove to the boat basin and toured LCS-5 “USS Milwaukee.” It was a very interesting ship and quickly reminded me of wandering the halls of the Constellation with all the turns and passageways and endless wires and pipes protruding everywhere. A Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) was a fast, surface combatant, optimized for operating in water close to shorelines countering diesel submarine, mines and surface threats, such as small surface craft attacks. When done we thanked Jerald for the tour and returned to our apartment. Pam and Janet “face timed” with Kari Lovell in Monroe, and they had a grand time together. Good Day!

Friday morning, we drove to the base and visited with Samantha Lagae for a while and then  had some lunch and returned to the apartment and visited for a few hours, talking about families in the Monroe 3rd ward we didn’t know—so many changes! At 6:00 pm we drove to the Jacksonville Beach Ward chapel for a “Baby Reveal” for Stephanie and Lance Jarvis. This was a first for us, but they gathered their good friends and family around them and it was nice. Several Navy friends from the “USS Philippine Sea” were there and we knew them all from the USO. We had a dinner first and then the “reveal” happened. Stephanie and Lance each were given bottles that had switches on the bottom and when they turned the switch colored material shot out like champagne; either pink or blue. It was Blue, a Boy! They were very happy.  

Saturday morning, Pam received a call from President Lee inviting us to join them and Elder Whitehead on a tour of Jacksonville Beach. It sounded like fun. We drove to the location of “Go-Tuk’n” and they had a fleet of extended golf carts which held 6 people and were battery powered. The tour guide first took us to the Beaches Museum, on Beach Blvd and we spent over an hour going through the various buildings of the museum and enjoying the narration of a very enthusiastic tour guide from the museum. The main building housed a collection of artifacts from Jacksonville Beach from its earliest beginnings and then we crossed a street and toured historic buildings which had served as post office, a display building housing a full-scale locomotive which ran on the tracks up and down the east coast of Florida from Miami to Mayport; part of Henry Flagler’s empire in Florida. We also went through a train station that had been moved from Mayport, a typical station masters house fully furnished with period items, and finally the original Beaches Church which had been moved from its original location but was used for weddings, special occasions and concerts. After that tour, we drove all over Jacksonville, Atlantic and Neptune beach communities along 1st and 2nd Streets looking at properties, the beach, restaurants and made one stop at the historic Casa Marina Hotel.  The weather was perfect, and the entire tour took 3 hours. We ended our day with President & Sister Lee inviting us to join them for lunch at Joe’s Crab Shack, right on the beach. The food was excellent, and we enjoyed visiting with them and Elder Whitehead. We said our goodbyes and drove back to our apartment, and Pam and Janet settled down in the living room to visit and pretty much remained that way until 10:30 pm.

Sunday morning, we left for church at 9:30 am and visited with the saints and welcomed our families as they arrived. Nikki Head was there with her boys and we weren’t expecting her as Tony left for Norfolk this morning. Jenny Black was there with Olivia and Shay Tuttle came with her baby. Chris was underway again. The Lagae’s arrived right after the opening song and it was nice to see them. Tyler Gneck was there but we missed Alexis Connelly and will have to call her. Gary Noblit was in Bahrain and Devaney and her boys were still in Idaho, and the Jarvis’ were there as usual. Sacrament meeting was excellent, and we had two good talks. Priesthood meeting and Relief Society were next, and then the block was over. We visited for a while and returned to our home for the afternoon. Pam fixed some dinner and we ate and visited. Later, Pam and Janet sat in the living room and I went into the bedroom and began calling all the households we haven’t had any contact with and actually talked with a few people and learned that 4 families had left the service or transferred to new duty stations and were doing well. Had two other responses from families that were in the local area and would welcome a visit. The rest of my calls either didn’t connect or I was able to leave messages again. Anyway, it was one of the most productive days we’ve had making phone calls and that was encouraging. In the evening Pam and Janet were still going strong and I watched Elder & Sister Renlund’s Worldwide Broadcast to YSA’s from the Cannon Center at BYU-H and it was very good and counseled the YSA’s about “Faith and Doubt.”  

 Mayport USO Volunteers
 Janet Cartwright arriving in Jacksonville
 Jacksonville East Zone
 Janet with us at Zone Conference
 Some of our Zone Sisters
 Mayport Beach
Janet & Pam looking for Sharks Teeth
We toured the USS Milwaukee
 Bridge on the USS Milwaukee
 Marshland and beautiful clouds near Mayport Naval Station
 Baby reveal for the Jarvis'; "it's a Boy!"
 Vehicle for "Go-Tukn" tour of Jacksonville Beach
 Navy display in Museum
President & Sister Lee in Post Office
 Train display
 Train Station
 Train masters home with surrounding garden
 Janet and Pam in train station ticket office
 Original Beaches Church
 Inside the Beaches Church
 Loading up again
Historic Casa Marina Hotel on the Jacksonville Beach

Monday, January 7, 2019

Week 48 (31 December 2018 - 6 January 2019)

Monday morning, the last day of 2018. Hard to believe the year is gone already. We began the day authoring our blog for the week and then began the narrative on our December 2018 report to church Military Relations headquarters. At 10:30 am we drove to the Naval Station and visited with Tony and Nikki Head for a while. They had a wonderful Christmas and we were happy they were home again. Tony was going TAD to Norfolk in mid-January and we discussed what help we could provide for Nikki and the boys. From Mayport we drove to Wal-Mart on Kernan and did some shopping for “white elephant” gifts for an upcoming USO New Year’s Staff/Volunteer party at a Jacksonville Beach restaurant. Following lunch, we returned to our apartment for the afternoon. At 4:30 pm we got ready and left for a New Year’s Eve activity at President & Sister Lee’s home with members of the Jacksonville East Zone. Pam needed an interview, so we arrived at 5:20 pm and she met with the President and I joined other missionaries (Schroeder’s & Waites and Sisters Davis & Paulsen) in the kitchen helping to get things ready for the dinner. What a wonderful evening! Tables were set up in the living room, dining room and kitchen to host the missionaries and by 6:00 pm everyone was present. Sister Lee had us assemble in the living room and she went over procedures for the Fondue dinner—probably a first for most of the missionaries. Following a prayer on the food, the dining began with the senior missionaries staying in the living room and the Sisters migrating into the dining room and Elders into the kitchen. Elder & Sister Whitehead and a daughter and son-in-law arrived about 5:30 pm and it was nice to see them again and they joined us. The Fondue was wonderful with beef, chicken and shrimp as meat dishes and bread, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli to use in a cheese dip. For the next hour we enjoyed the food and visited with Elder & Sister Schroeder, Elder & Sister Waite and Elder’s Carter and Shirtliff. It was entertaining to listen to Sister Schroeder act as match maker for the two elders. The Schroeder’s and Waites were doing interesting work in Gainesville at the University of Florida and would both be finishing their missions in May. This summer there will be a complete turnover of senior missionaries including President & Sister Lee. Following the main course was Chocolate with strawberries, bananas and pound bread to dip and it was delicious. Sister Lee had assigned cleanup duties during her instructions and the Elders and Sisters got fully engaged and within 15 minutes everything was done. We said our goodbyes to everyone and left at 8:30 pm and the mission van was right behind us filled with elders and sisters.
            Tuesday morning began the new year—2019. We were 11 months into our mission and it had been a most pleasant experience for us and we enjoyed the superb leadership of President & Sister Lee. We felt safe and protected and managed the excitement of driving in Jacksonville! Rather than detail the strife and discord in our country and the world, we want to note the invitations of our beloved Prophet and President, Russell M. Nelson, for the new year. Though a prophet for less than a year, he made an immediate impact on the church and the world. Here are some amazing invitations to help us draw closer to the Savior:

1. Manage social media time.
2. Read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover.
3. Start a revelation journal.
4. Schedule regular study time with your family.
5. Attend the temple regularly.
6. Use the full name of the Church.
7. Minister.

Today we felt it inappropriate to make visits so let our friends enjoy their day as families. We took a drive to Brunswick, Georgia to see that historic town and began about 11:30 am driving north on I-95. The freeway was fairly quiet, and we enjoyed the ride. We made a false turn and discovered we were heading back to Jacksonville but got that righted and finally crossed the Sidney Lanier Bridge into Brunswick from the south. As we later discovered the southern part of Brunswick was the “old town” and quite remarkable with beautiful streets lined with Victorian homes and a neatly restored commercial section, including an old “S.W. Kress” building. We practically had the streets to ourselves and wandered up and down taking pictures and remarking on the beautiful old Oak trees filled with Spanish Moss. We stopped at a park named “Mary Ross Waterfront Park” where was located an old waterfront lighthouse and a memorial to “Liberty Ships” of World War II. During the war 16,000 workers constructed 99 Liberty Ships; 4 per month to aid in supplying Europe during the war. Also tied up at an adjacent pier was a beautiful old sailing vessel called the “Peacemaker” and was for sale. After spending an hour or so in Brunswick we headed back towards I-95 and found the more modern part of Brunswick and it was a busy place with roads going everywhere. We eventually found the freeway and stopped for lunch and then continued south to our apartment in Arlington Hills. It had been an interesting drive. The coastline of southeastern United States was so different from the west coast—so many rivers and streams feeding estuaries, inlets, and marshlands. It was a wonder how the early pioneers had the “grit” to settle these areas as land passage was almost impossible. Also, the “critters” and insects would have been intense.

Wednesday morning, we drove to Ikea and did a little shopping and then had lunch in the St. Johns Center before returning to our Arlington Hills. At home 3 letters we had sent out to military members were returned because they were not deliverable, so that was the answer we were seeking. We also received a text message from a family in the Orange Park area confirming their status and we appreciated that. We also saw a statement from the First Presidency that discussed changes to the Temple endowment ceremony and a lot of hints from various media posts that the endowment had indeed changed. “…Over these many centuries, details associated with temple work have been adjusted periodically, including language, methods of construction, communication, and record-keeping. Prophets have taught that there will be no end to such adjustments as directed by the Lord to His servants…” We looked forward to being in the Temple to witness the changes. At 2:45 pm we drove to the airport to pick-up Tyler Gneck and a friend who were waiting for us. It was good to see them again and hear about their visits with family. On the way to the Naval Station we encountered a street full of police cars at the intersection of Mayport and Wonderwood Roads and were directed to the back gate of the Naval Station. The short of the story is that it took 90 minutes to get on and off the base due to the heavy “go home” traffic and only one small gate available. We later learned there had been an armed robbery at Lucky Charms Arcade (by the USO) at 2:00 pm and a suspect car-jacked a car from a nearby housing area and kidnapped the driver and in his escape hit a police officer at the intersection of Mayport and Wunderwood roads which caused the main gate to be closed for several hours while police processed the scene. What an afternoon! We finally made it back to our apartment safe and sound.

Thursday morning, we left for the USO at 8:30 am and opened the facility and processed bread and pastries that had been donated and they were ready for patrons by 9:30 am. We cleaned up trash and recyclable items and by 10:00 am Charlie Tramazzo and also Joyce Schellhorn (Director) had arrived. We got bins and packed up Christmas items from Joyce’s desk and hutch. Pam spent time in the kitchen going through the cabinets with Joyce and disposing of things that were not used—some to the free table and some thrown away. We concluded our work at 2:00 pm and drove to the BJ’s on Atlantic and bought crackers and continued to the Mission Office. On the way Pam prepared a gift of cheese and crackers for the office staff and Sister Whitehead and Elder Grieve were working and we visited with them for a few minutes, left the gift and returned to Arlington Hills and our apartment. We learned of the change in mission boundaries as our mission was going to incorporate much of the Macon Georgia and Tallahassee Missions to the north and west. It would take place in July.

Friday morning, we left for the USO at 9:00 am. Originally, we were going to Adventure Landing to take down a Christmas tree decorated by the USO, but they weren’t open in the morning, so we got busy doing other jobs. We returned to our apartment and Pam got some ingredients to use with chicken and then went to Beams in Jacksonville Beach and picked up several hundred pounds of chicken and hamburger. At the USO we unloaded the meat and Pam began processing chicken for Monday’s “No Dough” dinner. I set up the main room for the dinner and got down roaster ovens for Pam and helped her with the chicken. The packages were frozen hard, so we had to warm them to get the packing material off the chicken. While doing that Nikki Head came to visit with Pam. After Nikki left Pam checked out what I had done and began cooking chicken in the roaster pans. We had a couple of community service workers come in the afternoon and a lady helped Pam and I worked with a man preparing boxes to ship to the middle east. Pam and I finally left for the day about 3:00 pm and had a late lunch and then home. We had a nice visit with Alex Jr. and Cynthia in the evening.

Saturday morning, we began the morning with laundry and then at 9:30 am left for a USO Volunteer and Staff Party at Whiskey Jax in Jacksonville Beach. We joined with about 30-40 others from all over Jacksonville. From Mayport there was Joyce Schellhorn, James McCullough, Charlie Tramazzo and his wife, Megan DeGance and her husband, Julie Davis and Donna and her daughter, who help on “No Dough” dinners. There were representatives from JIA and NAS Jacksonville and the executive staff of USO Jacksonville. Mike Brian welcomed everyone followed by brunch and awards. Each facility director called up its volunteers and presented them with certificates for their service and a pin. Pam and I were honored, and Joyce said some nice things about us and mentioned our service as missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The final event was “white elephant” gift sharing and that took a while. Pam and I ended up with candy. We visited with several individuals following the event, mostly about our mission and Utah. We left at noon and drove back to our apartment in Arlington Hills and changed clothes, made our bed and put another load of clothes in the washer and dryer and then went nearby for some lunch. We filled up the van with gas and stopped at a Basking & Robbins and had an ice cream cone. Finally, we headed back to our apartment with one stop at Garret Gardner’s home and met him for the first time. He was a less active member of the church serving in the Navy on the USS Milwaukee; Jerald Lagae’s ship. He told us about himself and his family—he was from Louisiana and had been a member all his life but not active. His wife was a non-member and they had two children ages 8 and 10. He welcomed future contact and visits. We returned home and did a little housework and took care of more laundry and spent a quiet afternoon and evening. Pam had a nice visit with Ann Marie and it sounded like she was all set for her hip surgery next week.

Sunday morning, we left for church in Jacksonville Beach at 9:30 am. Today was the first Sunday on the new schedule outlined by President Nelson last month. The chapel was full today and we had Jenny Black & Olivia, Sam Lagae and children, Shay Tuttle, Tyler Gneck, Gary Noblit and Stephanie Jarvis with us today. Several husbands were standing duty and Gary’s wife, Devaney, was in Idaho. President & Sister Lee were also with us and it was nice to see them again. Sacrament meeting was excellent and lasted just one hour with good testimonies. Brother Hardy taught the gospel doctrine class in the chapel during the final hour and it was also very good with a lot of participation. We visited for a while and then left at noon and returned to our apartment. Pam and I studied the first lesson in the new Individual and Family curriculum book and it required a lot of pondering to process the questions. Sam Lagae called and invited us to dinner. We left at 5:00 pm and Pam took some frozen beans to contribute to the meal. Wendy Delgado and her son Elijah were also invited and by 6:00 pm we were ready to eat. The meal was excellent, and we enjoyed visiting with Wendy and Sam. The little kids were all over the place, but we enjoyed the evening.  

 Sisters Topham & Wasden home for dinner with Pam and I
 Pam and Alexis Connelly visiting at the Lagae's on Christmas Day
 Evening view from President Lee's home New Years Eve
 Missionaries loading up dishes with ingredients for Fondue Dinner-Yummy!
 Dining Room before the meal
 All the missionaries in the kitchen helping with cleanup
 The "Peacemaker" tied up in Brunswick, Georgia
 The "Peacemaker" in Brunswick Georgia
 Maritime lighthouse and gathering building at Mary Ross Park, Brunswick, Georgia
 An old S. H. Kress Building on main street in Brunswick, Georgia
 Theater still in use in downtown Brunswick, Georgia
 Government building in downtown Brunswick, Georgia
 Victorian home in Brunswick, Georgia
 Victorian home in Brunswick, Georgia
 Kyler & Tristan Alexander at church in Arlington Ward
Tara & Wes Alexander at church in Arlington Ward-great family!

Week 66 (6 - 12 May)

Monday morning, Pam and I left for the USO at 9:30 am. No Dough dinner was that evening, so we were busy. Upon arrival my birthday was cele...