Spring into Service
Ideas for how to live generously as spring comes.
By Kathleen Childers ● Photo by Louise Palmberg
Spring often comes in fits and starts. But eventually, even the harshest, longest winter lets go, giving way to some welcome changes. Our physical senses pick up on them: Buds swell, grass starts to green up and the morning chorus of birds grows louder each day. We respond to the changes spiritually, too, as the season leading up to Easter brings the promise of renewal and rebirth.
Spring also can be a time to search for fresh ways to live generously. For example, the yard chores on your to-do list are probably the same ones you could do for others needing assistance. Your annual neighborhood block party could become a fundraiser for a favorite charity. Your April garage sale might support a family in crisis. There are many more ideas, including the following five from members. They found ways to further their service in spring, with the help of one of Thrivent’s generosity programs, Thrivent Action Teams.
Sarah Humphrey and Karen Maresco took their cues from spring when they organized a fundraiser last May. They sold flats of flower and vegetable seedlings to support a mission trip to Ponce, Puerto Rico, that was planned for July. Humphrey created a Thrivent Action Team to help. The team gathered plant orders from their church, St. Peter’s, and their community, Huntington Station, New York, and picked up the flats from the grower and helped deliver them.
“With spring and people working in their gardens, we thought selling plants would be a good way to raise money,” says Humphrey. “And we held it just before Mother’s Day, thinking people would want to purchase flats as gifts.”
Humphrey and Maresco started planning the sale over the winter. They contacted a local nursery months ahead of time to arrange for the flats. And they gave themselves plenty of time to advertise in several ways. “We didn’t just rely on social media to get the word out,” Humphrey says. “We announced it in the church bulletin, and we passed out order forms to people at our workplaces and local businesses.”
The sale raised $1,931, which was used for supplies taken to Puerto Rico. While there, the mission trip team partnered with a local church and repaired hurricane-damaged homes, taught Vacation Bible School, visited nursing homes and did prayer walks with local residents.
“Spring is a good time to reflect,” says Humphrey, “and to get out there and experience God’s creation.”
Members of Atonement Lutheran Church in Newport, Oregon, look forward to spring when they can plant vegetables that they donate to a local food pantry. The effort is spearheaded by Rhonda Harman. They grow potatoes in a large bed, and lettuce, kale, peas and other vegetables and herbs in raised beds. Unfortunately, local deer, racoons and other critters also looked forward to the annual planting—they were consuming the raised-bed crops before church members could harvest them.
So last spring, Thrivent member Jean Amundson, whose husband, Paul, helps with the gardening, organized a Thrivent Action Team at Atonement to critter-proof the raised beds. Church members built sturdy fences that keep the intruders out but can be removed when the raised beds need tending. The fences worked beautifully. “The critters stayed away,” Amundson says, “and the raised beds produced about 315 pounds of vegetables for the food pantry.” The potato patch also was harvested and donated in early fall by gardeners.
Easter Egg Hunt
Winters are especially long in Pipestone, Minnesota, so when Easter arrives, it’s particularly welcome and inspiring. For Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church, it’s also an opportunity to bring the community together for an annual Easter egg hunt. Last year’s event drew 70 kids and parents. They searched for eggs and enjoyed snacks, a craft activity and a talk by the pastor.
Gary Hailey and his wife, Carmen, like to use their generosity to support their church and its presence in the community. They led a Thrivent Action Team for the event, which was held the Saturday before Palm Sunday. They filled 900 plastic eggs with goodies and then helped scatter them in the church yard.
Having done this for several years, they’ve learned a few tricks to make the hunt a success: They purchase supplies at a discount store, including peanut-free candy, in case any of the kids have food allergies. They buy the eggs, which are re-used each year, in a number of colors. To give younger kids a better chance at gathering eggs, the older kids are asked to search only for eggs of a certain color.
The church also takes its generosity outdoors in the summer, with a block party geared toward kids age 10 and under. “We want to do fun things for families,” Gary says, “and we hope they might be encouraged to visit our church.”
Tracy Dieckman didn’t have to look far for the perfect springtime service project. Her home in Campbellsport, Wisconsin, sits right across the street from Fireman’s Park. As the main recreational spot for this small town, it’s heavily used in the warm months of the year. Over the winter, however, it’s not maintained. So when spring arrives, it reveals a fair amount of trash and debris that has collected over the months.
Last spring, with a festival scheduled to happen soon, Dieckman had an idea for cleaning up the park. It would be the perfect project for her kids’ confirmation class: getting them outdoors and improving a feature of the town that everybody enjoys. She organized a Thrivent Action Team for the clean-up, composed of kids from the class and some of their siblings and parents. “We used the seed money to buy trash bags, rakes, gloves and other supplies,” Dieckman says. “On the Saturday that we held the cleanup, we raked up twigs, picked up garbage, cleaned bathrooms and wiped down picnic tables.” The team’s enthusiasm during the event seemed to spread. Others who happened to be at the park that day joined them in their efforts.
It isn’t spring without spring cleaning. And that, says Margie Grandpre of Osburn, Idaho, is one of the reasons the annual rummage sale at Bethany Lutheran Church is a success. The stuff people want to get rid of is given to the church. While the church collects things for the sale all year long, spring brings a surge of the clothing and household goods that eventually fill the racks and tables of the two-day, late-spring event. The timing also helps bring more people to the sale. “It’s the time of year when people are out going to garage sales,” Grandpre says, “and we think we benefit from that.”
To help run the sale, Grandpre organized a Thrivent Action Team. Almost every member of the small church participated in the weeks it took to set it up and the days of the sale.
“The sale helps the community in a couple of ways,” Grandpre says. Most items are priced at just 25 cents, so many families who have lower incomes like to shop at the sale because they can find quality things they need and can afford. To help boost sales, they also try to have some items that are appropriately priced higher—like a set of tires they sold last year for $200. Any items that aren’t sold are donated to the local VFW chapter or a faith-based thrift store for a sale they hold in late summer.
In addition, all the rummage sale’s proceeds benefit someone in need. Last year, they helped a young man travel to Seattle for medical care.
Kathleen Childers is a freelance writer in Minnesota.
Looking for other ways to help your neighbors and community? Consider your passions and then look for ways you can help others. Here are some additional ideas you might find appealing:
- Start a community garden.
- Organize a neighborhood tree-planting.
- Create a street cleanup day.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter.
- Help elderly neighbors with yard work.
- Clean your closets and donate items to charity.
- Go on (or chaperone) a spring-break volunteering trip.
- Help organize and paint a mural for your town.
- Donate repair services to area nonprofits.
- Organize a crew for a day and ask the city council if there are projects that need extra help.
- Host a neighborhood Easter egg hunt.
How Thrivent Can Help
Learn more about how these Thrivent programs can help you live generously:
- Thrivent Action Teams
- Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Partnership
- Thrivent Member Networks
Go to Thrivent.com/livegenerously for information.
Thrivent Members Make A Difference in 2019
Number of hours members and others volunteered through Thrivent programs
Number of Thrivent Action Teams led by members
Number of homes built across the U.S. in 2019 through the Habitat and Thrivent partnership
Thrivent member activities, such as Thrivent Action Teams, the Habitat for Humanity and Thrivent Partnership, and Thrivent Choice, engage Thrivent members and Thrivent Member Networks in charitable activities, furthering Thrivent’s mission and its purposes under state law. You should never purchase or retain any insurance or annuity products simply to be able to participate. Participation is subject to applicable Terms and Conditions.