It was a beehive of activity Saturday morning at Wayman Chapel on Billings’ South Side, with 60 volunteers sprucing up the sanctuary, painting the basement walls and landscaping the exterior grounds.
And only a handful of the helpers belong to the historic South Side Billings church, which is part of the African Episcopal Methodist denomination. The rest, adults and kids, were part of a day of service sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The day was meant to highlight JustServe, a website created by the LDS Church to match organizations that need help with volunteers who would like to give their time to a good cause. The website is open to a broad audience, both in terms of groups that need help and those who want to help out.
The website explains that JustServe doesn’t discriminate “based on race, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation to screen projects for posting or volunteers who may sign up to serve.”
On Saturday, multiple groups of LDS volunteers fanned out to a number of sites to spend the morning completing projects. Among them was Wayman Chapel, where an LDS team had lent a hand 20 years before.
“They did come and do some painting and siding of this chapel to help this congregation,” said Case Haslam, a leader in the West Park Ward of the LDS church in Billings. "This has kind of been our sister congregation over the years."
Haslam and a large LDS contingent joined volunteers from Wayman Chapel to complete the needed work. In the sanctuary, they washed windows, vacuumed, dusted and cleaned the pew cushions and backs as they visited with each other.
Downstairs, volunteers painted the walls. And outside, despite the rain, a small army with shovels and wheelbarrows emptied dirt from the parkway between the sidewalk and the street. Then they laid down weed mat and added a layer of gravel.
They also did other outside chores that church members hadn’t had time to tackle. The Rev. Dalondrick “Simon” Bergen appreciated the help.
“I have some really dedicated people in the church,” Bergen said, taking a moment from depositing a wheelbarrow full of dirt onto a discard pile. “But it’s a small congregation and the work is big, and I thank God for the many that he sent.”
Wayman Chapel has a solid membership of about 40 people, Bergen said. But any given Sunday the number in the pews can range from 10 to 60.
Most of the people at Wayman, including Bergen himself, work full-time. And that makes it difficult to tackle big projects.
Instead, he figured that all the volunteers who showed up would make quick work of the tasks on the to-do list.
“Because of people committed to something bigger than themselves, this will be done here in a couple of hours,” he said.
Volunteering, Haslam said, is important in the lives of LDS members.
“It’s an example we’ve been given through Christ, and we try to emulate what he did,” he said. “Giving back to others is a fun and humbling way to raise our families and be a community.”
Kameron Nelson, a member of the Hilltop Ward, brought two of her teen daughters and two of her younger children to join in the work. She used a rag to scrub stains off of a fabric seat cushion on one of the pews.
Bringing her children along to help out on such a project is fun and it serves a purpose, Nelson said. Christ loved children and he lived a life of service.
“So we invite our children into that as we model it for them,” she said. “Volunteering is just part of what we do in our congregation, and we have lots of opportunities.”
Ten-year-old Sydni Gray spent the morning outside. At one point, she held a hammer in two hands, striking a water spout that was full of dirt and crushed to the point where no water could come through.
As Haslam held the spout, the girl pounded on it to reopen the closed end. Asked if she was having fun, Sydni nodded her head and said, “Yeah.”
“I really like serving others and this is a really awesome experience,” she said.