Soldotna may be 500 miles south of North Pole, but “workshop” seems to be a fitting word to describe the cinnamon scented room where the Christmas helpers painted toys and stuffed stockings in anticipation of the holiday season.
On Thursday afternoon, a group of women from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Soldotna held their monthly humanitarian activity and pot luck which featured a pumpkin cinnamon roll baking demonstration followed by a collective community service activity.
The theme of the afternoon was that “there is something for everyone to do,” according to Christine Flake of Clam Gulch, who helps to organize the monthly events.
“We have a station to make Christmas blessing bags for the Lee Shore Center right here. … We’re making lotion bars to stuff stockings, and all the stockings will have something homemade in them,” Flake told the room at the start of the event. “And here we have letters to the soldiers. They really need encouragement and to know we appreciate what they do, especially at this time of year.”
The group’s humanitarian acts don’t just spring up at Christmas, though. The church has been hosting the monthly humanitarian meetings since 1997, according to Carla Anderson.
The LDS Church asked its members to make quilts for refugees during the war over Kosovo’s independence from Serbia in 1997. The church went in expecting to donate 13,000 quilts, but ended up sending nearly 90,000.
“In our group here, we made 43 quilts at that time,” Anderson said. “Then we kept on doing things on a monthly basis for different things in the community. … Now, though, the focus is looking more within the community.”
The group works with organizations throughout the Kenai Peninsula, including an ongoing relationship with The LeeShore Center in Kenai, which services victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. This past year, they also starting working with Love in the Name of Christ (Love INC), a Soldotna-based inter-denominational Christian organization that provides assistance to those in need.
One of the main projects of the afternoon was to finish stockings for a Christmas dinner being hosted at Love INC on Dec. 23. The 75 stockings were filled with toiletries, toys and more for men, women and children in need who attend the holiday dinner.
“Then we’ll have some entertainment and a photo opportunity in front of a nativity scene,” Flake said. “So they can take a picture home. … We’re trying to work it where they can make a family night of it because it’s going to be their Christmas.”
The group is also continuing its adventures in quilting, with two completed quilts ready to go to The LeeShore Center and Love INC. Christine Carlson of Kasilof has made about 35 quilts this year, she said, each of them going toward a good cause.
“I’m always looking for opportunities for our ladies to serve,” Flake said. “…Our goal is to get out there in the community and eventually get to a situation where we are helping and teaching self-reliance as well.”
Self-reliance factors in with the monthly presentations from church members, which cover a variety of topics from vegetable canning to fish processing. This month’s was a bit more sweet than educational, with Jazmin Lopez of Soldotna showing the group how to make pumpkin butter and bake pumpkin cinnamon rolls.
In addition to the cinnamon rolls, a table was filled with a selection of food brought by members. There was also a daycare available so that women didn’t have to worry about finding a babysitter and allowing for the humanitarianism to be coupled with conversation.
Sister Merritt Jewel of Florida and Sister Hannah Clawson of Utah, who are both serving their 18-month missions in the area, took this time as an opportunity to immerse themselves in Alaska culture.
“It’s super different, but I love it,” Jewel said. “Everybody has something that they love and they love to share it. I’ve found that a lot in Alaska, that people always have that thing that they love.”
The LDS Church in Soldotna hosts the humanitarian event on the last Thursday of each month. All are welcome.
Reach Kat Sorensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.