A typical mission for a Mormon elder wouldn’t normally involve mowing lawns or helping clean out garages at various Woodinville-area homes. But few things in 2020 could be described as “typical.”
A group of elders whose missions were supposed to be in Africa, Peru and elsewhere were called back to the states after the pandemic outbreak worsened and had to re-think how they were going to serve. Sean May, 19, had been in Sierra Leone when he was sent to Everett in the summer.
There, he and his mission started asking community members if they needed work done. The jobs may be just about anything outside as long as power tools aren't involved.
When he came to Woodinville, he brought the service project concept with him, he said. He emphasized that the service projects are not a way to try and recruit people to the church.
“We’re just a bunch of dudes in Washington trying to help people out because we know COVID has been really hard,” May said.
Woodinville resident Jennifer Mosinski said she no longer goes to church, but reached out to the missionaries for help with yard work. A couple years ago she'd had a back injury and couldn't do much of the manual labor herself. She’s had the current local group of missionaries do several projects since they started in June.
“It’s really service without strings,” Mosinski said. “They’re not going to throw you in a puddle and sneakily baptize you,” she later added.
Although the service is done at no cost, she usually pays them in pizza, she said.
As of Dec. 29, the crew – comprising May, Keaton Steck, Will Gabor and Landon Whitaker – had helped 20 or so households in the area. They primarily advertise their services through community Facebook groups, and they said many of the families ask them to come back for repeat appointments.
As a mission, 14 or so people covering most of Western Washington have served more than 700 people, May said.
The asks vary from chopping wood, ridding yards of vermin, or moving furniture. Because of the pandemic, the elders aren’t allowed to enter homes to help people move, Steck noted. But they can help move anything out of open garages or that’s already outside, he said.
One regrettable assignment involved cleaning out someone’s cat toilet – not a litter box, an actual toilet, May said.
The cat-excrement removal aside, the young men agreed most of the experiences have been positive.
“We’re always looking for more people to help out,” May said.
The group can be found and contacted through Facebook, such as through posts on the Woodinville Neighbors page.