Kim Tylka, Toronto Ontario Stake, editorial staff
This post originally appeared on the Church of the Latter Day Saints website. You can read it here.
In early February 2022, I read an article where a teacher discussed how the teens in her classroom were not “ok.” I found myself nodding and understanding as I saw the concerns in my own two teenagers and in the youth who I have been blessed to serve with as stake Young Women president of the Toronto Stake in Ontario, Canada.
It is easy to see all that the youth have missed because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Yet, I have seen how being a part of a community of youth in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints, has been a blessing for our youth socially, physically, spiritually, and intellectually despite the loss of so much.
A chance to serve
As the fifth COVID wave began in January 2022 and things shut down in Ontario and schools went virtual, I could see what the teacher mentioned in her article, that the youth around me were struggling. Simultaneously, but certainly not coincidentally, through a dedicated leader, the youth of the Toronto Stake were able to begin taking part in a community project called Socks4Souls (https://www.socks4soulscanada.com/).
This organization collects thousands of new socks from community donations and gives them to shelters and the homeless in Canada.
In partnership with Socks4SoulsCanada, our youth were able to be a part of the distribution of these socks. The organization made deliveries to the church buildings in our stake and the youth were trained to sort, organize, and package socks in bags of 100. These bags of socks were then delivered to shelters.
An opportunity to grow
The Toronto Ward Young Women took the lead as their building was the first location for a drop off of socks. They had over 10,000 socks delivered and were able to organize and bag 100 bags of 100 socks. These were then delivered to local shelters in the Toronto area.
Alexa and Amelie Parry, young women from the Toronto Ward, were trained and began leading the efforts for their building. Then when it was time for a second drop off at another building, Alexa and Amelie were able to go and train the youth of the Don Valley and Bayview Wards so that they could sort, organize, and bag 10,000 socks and deliver them to shelters nearby.
The youth of the Don Valley and Bayview Wards have now shown the youth of the Don Mills and Christie Wards how to sort and organize the thousands of socks that were delivered to their ward building.
Expressions of gratitude
“Participation in this service project during the pandemic was very nourishing and fun. Although we can’t be as close as we once were, I feel we are still able to connect and form new friendships as well as help people in need. The pandemic has been a drastic change for me and for many others I am sure. I’ve had to find things to do on my own, and school has also been a difficult transition. I sometimes feel I’ve missed out on many opportunities that I would have had as a teenager in normal circumstances. As such, the Socks4Souls service activity was a seized and embraced opportunity.”
“It made me feel free and like everything was back to normal. Even though we were wearing masks and distancing ourselves, it felt nice to talk to someone who wasn’t part of my close family. The pandemic has been really quite difficult however, having the opportunity to go outside of my house and help organizations like Socks4Souls, has calmed me down and made the current situation we are all in not so gloomy. I felt free and at ease.”
Their Young Women leader, Sandi Barker, remarked,
“I would say that the project was not only a time for the youth to have purpose during a very discouraging time but also a time to lead. With so much out of their control, it was empowering for them to lead, train and experience the satisfaction of a job well done. We are very proud of our youth for embracing this service project. Socks4Souls have been very impressed with our youth and the tens of thousands of socks they’ve been able to sort in just a few days. A wonderful partnership has been formed.”
The rewards of service
I have learned that while things have been uncertain, bleak, and discouraging, and while we are all very concerned for how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect our youth and their futures, being a part of a community in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has blessed our youth despite what has been going on in their lives.
I marvel at our youth and young women such as Alexa and Amelie, who want to help others and who have the capability and strength to lead, serve, and act on faith. They have shown me that the opportunity to serve Jesus Christ and the people around us is a sure way to “forget our troubles” and feel happiness and peace. In a world of uncertainty, I am assured that Jesus Christ loves our youth and that through Him our youth will be “ok.”
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it”(Mark 8:35)