2016 was pivotal for LDS Earth Stewardship. Years of volunteer efforts have laid the foundation for our organization to become much more professional and effective. A few high points of 2016 are recapped below.
In July, the LDSES board convened a retreat and engaged a consultant to develop a strategic plan. This plan will be an evolving document, and the initial version was completed in December. Supplementing the strategic plan, a communications strategy and a long-term fundraising plan will be completed in coming weeks.
Email and Facebook have a place, but are no substitute for the community that can grow through face-to-face interaction. Indeed, a recurring theme of the comments offered by members when they join LDS Earth Stewardship is that they are seeking fellowship with like-minded Latter-day Saints. 2016 saw the formation of our first local group, centered in the Washington, DC area, and reaching surrounding states. The BYU Earth Stewardship group has affiliated with LDS Earth Stewardship, and additional groups have formed in Salt Lake City, and Provo.
While long-term planning was appropriately a major focus for 2016, we did not neglect practical, hands-on, service. One high-point of the year was a series of cleanup projects at Sandy Beach, on the shore of Utah Lake. At the direction of Par Rasmussen, volunteers spent more than 250 hours collecting tires, nails, and other man-made detritus from the shoreline.
Meanwhile, Earth Stewards in Maryland organized a similar project to remove trash from the banks of the Potomac River.
Finally, members in the Maryland area worked through LDS Earth Stewardship to apply for – and receive – a major grant for a storm water management, native plant landscaping and public education project on the site of a historic African-American church. Much of the landscaping work for this project is planned for Earth Day 2017 (April 22). Additional information about this interfaith project – financially supported by the Chesapeake Bay Trust – is available here.
These service projects of 2016 and 2017 set a pattern of environmental cleanup, habitat restoration, and interfaith cooperation that we will strive to continue in future years.