Bobbie Jackson popped the burgundy Boy Scouts of America van into drive, gassed it and rolled towards the cemetery. Saturday’s work, and all the chainsaw-wielding volunteers, had come from her and her husband’s prayers, she said.
“We been praying about it for a long time,” she said.
She turned into to Soldotna Memorial Park. As part of the World-Wide Annual Day of Service, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Kenai, Sterling and Soldotna wards — the latter of which Jackson is the representative of — were pulling up stumps, hosting a food drive and completing carpentry work around the central Kenai Peninsula, according to a news release from Stan Steadman, the area coordinator for the annual day of service.
Jackson’s ward, about 100 to 150 of them, were cutting firewood, clearing brush and felling trees, she said. As she pulled the shuttle bus into the cemetery, skirting a side loader brimming with clippings, chainsaws roared.
Friday night, about 40 church members cut many of the larger, standing-dead trees down to clean the cemetery. Saturday morning, members came to cut to size the fallen trees, limb the still-standing and clear brush. All the rounds pulled from the forest are stockpiled as firewood over the winter for shut-in seniors and the community’s needy, Jackson said.
“We believe in serving our fellow man,” said Mark Forbes, of Soldotna, holding a chainsaw. “We reach out to others and put ourselves in the hands of our savior. His hands can serve ours, and ours can serve others.”
Forbes, as a kid, worked through his church on an orange grove in Orange County, Calif. Many days, he worked side-by-side with his brother and dad, he said.
“I think sometimes I’d rather work side-by-side with these guys than play side-by-side,” he said, looking at three men next to him loading rounds onto a trailer, “because there’s just something special.”
Jackson said her and her husband’s goal was to find a project large enough that it would require the entire ward’s help. That’s why they prayed so much; she knew it needed to be big, she said.
They drove around often trying to find the right project. They’d organized a lot of work in the Kasilof cemeteries, but those projects were too small, she said.
Then they discovered all the work to be done in Soldotna’s cemetery — all the felling, the limbing, the clearing. The men, she said, can topple the trees, the women can clear the brush and the kids can prepare the food. It’s everybody’s work.
Down the gravel road from Forbes and his three friends, Soldotna Mayor Nels Anderson tightened the chain on a yellow saw. There are many local community-service organizations. Saturday’s efforts that Jackson and her husband spearheaded are one of the many, Anderson said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.