After 13 years of engaging in the community through our annual Serve Day, we still are amazed by what happens when we serve our neighbors. On May 5th and 12th, over 1,500 individuals gathered throughout Ventura County to serve at homeless shelters, mobile home parks, local schools and foster homes. By venturing outside our walls, we met those in our communities who are often go unnoticed, those with amazing stories to tell. People like Maria.
Maria Sherman is a 92-year-old immigrant from Finland. In 1941, she enlisted in the Finnish Amy to fight alongside Allied Forces to liberate Europe from the Nazis. She was 15 at the time. Her sacrifices on the front line garnered recognition from her country after the war was over, but how do you truly honor a lifetime of sacrifice?
On Serve Day, Anthem Church in Thousand Oaks helped the residents at Vallecito Mobile Home Park with window washing, indoor cleaning, yard work and more. That is when volunteer Tanny Santamaria got to meet Maria and learn her incredible story. “[We] had the opportunity of serving her by doing some much-needed yard work around her house and just visiting with her,” he said. The volunteers from Anthem church spent a few hours cleaning up the bushes in Maria’s yard, but the impact of this act of service goes so much deeper. By caring for our neighbors in simple, tangible ways, we remind them that they are not forgotten. We remind them that they are cared for. We remind them that they are loved. And as Tanny told us after the project was completed, “Through acts like this, people around us are able to find their way back to God.”
We could not agree more.