CARBONDALE — It's a simple enough concept, but it's making great strides in connecting people with the time, skill and energy to projects for which non-profits are needing assistance.

It's the Just Serve initiative, a project of the Church of Latter-Day Saints, which was introduced into this region in early June, according to organizer Kara Dunkel. It's complete name is Just Serve Cape, and the territory covers parts of the Cape Girardeau, all the way up to Williamson County. To date, about 1,063 volunteers have signed up, and from 45 to 50 projects have been completed.

"Just Serve is a 'no-strings attached,' free website that we are offering to the community to build unity through service," Dunkel said. "It's pretty much to connect volunteers with a buffet of non-profits' needs."

Here's how it works: A staff person of a not-for-profit agency goes to the Just Serve website, entering in a project it's needing help with. Any volunteer thinking he or she can help, and desiring to, contacts the agency's contact person. The website is JustServe.org; for questions, email JustServeCape@gmail.com.

There is no cost to submit an item. Everyone who volunteers, including Dunkel, is just that — a volunteer.

Dunkel notes that Just Serves also provides the nonprofit with another platform in the digital world, where the group's works and needs can be seen.

This includes volunteers for the Feed My Sheep Food Pantry at Bethel AME Church in Carbondale or the Murphysboro Food Pantry. Volunteers also helped out at this past weekend's Juneteenth celebration, an event honoring the day back in 1865 where sons enslaved Africans learned they'd been emancipated more than two years earlier, hosted by the African American Museum of Southern Illinois, Dunkel said. This coming Monday, volunteers are expected to turn out for the Garden Delight planting and mulching project at Hickory Lodge, hosted by Women of Hope, and for which Just Serve is attempting to recruit volunteers.

The Just Serve project is ideal for this area, as it could help anyone who is experiencing a job loss take some focus off their own grief, depression and other issues, as they help others who might be in even more dire straits. It could also help teenagers gain invaluable work experience for their resume, provide college students with a much- needed internship or work-style experience and even help retirees find another use for their wealth of skills, expertise and experience, she said.

"We believe that our greatest sense of purpose in life comes from what we give, not from what we get," she said.

stephanie.esters@thesouthern.com

618-351-5805

On Twitter: @scribeest

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Reporter

Stephanie Esters is a reporter covering Jackson and Union counties.

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