People came in droves in September to serve their communities in Wasatch County, not only on the 20th anniversary of September 11, but throughout the month. An organizer of some large-scale projects said the bar has been raised for future days of service and continued efforts throughout the fall.
Community service is nothing new to the people of Wasatch County, especially in commemoration of September 11th. This year, nonprofits and church groups in Heber Valley have partnered with the nonprofit National September 11 Day to coordinate efforts at scale.
“I think we live in a valley where if people see a need then they want to help,” said Sherry Cowen, a local 9/11 Day coordinator. “It just helped bring out some of the needs so that we could all participate and help. I really attribute all of this to people’s natural instincts of wanting to help each other. We live in a unique valley.
9/11 Day has sponsored nationwide service projects on and around September 11 each year since 2002, the year following the air attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
According to Cowen, a national representative for 9/11 congratulated the people of Utah on a particularly large turnout this year.
In Wasatch County this year, organizers saw the national effort as a way to make it easier for people to get involved and help locally.
“Our goal was, ‘Let’s do our best this year to make it a positive experience’ and then we can just build on that every year and really make it this remarkable event that the whole valley looks forward to and can participate in. “said Cowen.
In Wasatch County, Cowen estimated that about 500 people participated in the programs she helped coordinate, donating thousands of hours of work in total.
About 120 of them helped clear the grass around the trees at Heber City Cemetery and Midway Main Street. About 60 people helped make 18 quilts and contributed almost as many fleece blankets to donate.
At the Park City Christian Center in Heber, volunteers packed 1,600 student snack bags and hundreds of other kits for general hygiene, dental hygiene, baby care and pets.
They also wrote hundreds of thank you cards to teachers and first responders. First responders also jumped into the action by assembling birthday bags.
80 Deer Creek volunteers said they found the trails around the lake already exceptionally clean when they arrived. They still picked up about 100 bags of trash around trails, parking lots and marinas. Lofty Peaks Adventures donated a UTV to help collect the bags.
A calf-roping event on the 11th supported a Charleston family whose father is battling cancer. Proceeds came from the registration fees of 250 teams, the sale of baked goods and auction items which included a fifth wheel trailer and a prize horse.
Just because the 9/11 commemorative initiative didn’t mean that acts of service were supposed to take place on 9/11. Some of them have extended and will even go beyond the month.
The Wasatch Widows Group was already collecting stuffed animals to help with the emergency trauma kits the Sheriff’s Department keeps. They agreed to do that part of 9/11 and made 300 pandemic safety masks the same day.
The Wasatch County Juvenile Justice Center handed the 9/11 Day organizers a list of more than a dozen requests for help with their playground and building. The Cobblestone Homeowners Association has turned this into an ongoing partnership to send volunteers to help regularly.
And, with the help of an eagle scout, a final push in September brought an end to an ongoing effort to clean up parts of the Heber Valley airport.
But Cowen said for all she knows, those efforts may be just the tip of the iceberg.
“So much happened that day that we don’t even know about it,” she said. “We noticed that people showed up to a neighbor’s house just to help her in her garden and showed up to do things like that. I spoke to people who visited a lady at the health center. These kinds of little acts of service are happening all the time in this valley.
Local project organizers and service organizations used justserve.org to coordinate projects.
To learn more about National September 11 Day nonprofit, visit 911day.org.