Unbeknownst to Jeri, her friend, Cathi Niven, who is currently serving a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with her husband, Eric Niven, in the California Sacramento Mission, was being touched by the myriads of homeless she encountered during her missionary efforts.
Cathi contacted Jeri and asked if she might knit scarves for some of the homeless in Sacramento.
She was surprised when Jeri not only agreed, but asked if hats would be as useful as she had already knitted several and was unsure just how she was going to distribute them.
Thus began “Hats for the Homeless” in the Sacramento California Mission, Rancho Cordova Zone.
Both Burt and Niven were overwhelmed with the response.
Word soon spread throughout the Monticello Stake and volunteers responded.
“Sisters stitched with love the beautiful hats and scarves, and many women stopped by my home with not only hats and scarves, but also quilts, gloves, and contributions to mail the boxes,” wrote Jeri to Niven.
Niven had no idea just how big the project had become or what she would be receiving.
“I was amazed at the loving response of so many sisters from our home stake,” Niven said. “Elder Niven and I were told we would be receiving several boxes of handmade goods.
“We realized the scope of Jeri and the sisters’ efforts when our mission home called to say we had received several boxes and that we needed to come pick them up right away, as they filled up the mailroom of the office.”
The “several boxes” turned out to be seven full-size boxes filled with all kinds of knitted and quilted goods.
“When we returned home, we immediately opened the boxes and counted over 200 items for distribution,” Niven said.
“My heart just melted in thanks and appreciation for the charitable efforts of Jeri and the wonderful sisters in Monticello.”
“My heart was so touched as I experienced the magnitude of efforts combined by the sisters of the four Monticello Stake wards, the La Sal Branch, and the Paradox Branch,” Burt said.
“My testimony increased in this experience, and I have gained a deeper appreciation of the important symbol of the beehive in our Church’s history, to encourage and inspire one another.
“Working together, we can do so much more. This was an amazing experience.”
Now it was up to the Nivens to ensure the items were distributed to the homeless. Working with individuals connected to the public affairs office of the Sacramento, CA Cordova Stake, as well as representatives of the City of Rancho Cordova Homeless Outreach Team (HOT) and the mission leadership in the Rancho Cordova Zone, a day was set up to begin distribution.
Initial distribution was selected to coincide with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ annual initiative, Light the World (www.lighttheworld.org). The day chosen turned out to be cold and wet, as a rainstorm had just passed through the area.
Accompanied by representatives of HOT, the 18 missionaries of the Rancho Cordova Zone, wearing Santa hats and bearing knitted goods, began giving the items out to the appreciative recipients.
Remaining items were divided and given to the missionaries for continued distribution during their contacting efforts.
The Hats for the Homeless effort had special meaning for one of the sister missionaries in the Rancho Cordova Zone. Anna Rowley, who is also from Monticello, was especially excited to be a part of the effort, as she knows many of those who worked so diligently to provide the items.
Following the initial distribution, the elders and sisters then participated in two additional service projects before reuniting for a final service project of the day, caroling with Santa at a senior living center.
“We are so humbled to be able to serve so many of our Heavenly Father’s children here in Sacramento.
We work mostly with members who have let go of the iron rod, and it may take a long time to see results. But with Hats for the Homeless, we were able to see faces brighten and hearts warm immediately,” Niven said. “Our thanks to all who have helped make this effort real.”