Love Trumps Faith to Build Community

July 28 editorial by Heather Resz, Mat-Su Frontiersman

What has hundreds of hands, half as many points of view, one goal and is the pride of the Mat-Su Valley?

The answer is RealLove.

Organized by Valley Pastors Prayer Network, the two-month community service effort culminated Saturday with a day of service, called RealLove.

People from around the Mat-Su Valley got up early Saturday to paint, rake, mow, clean, share and show love to our community at 29 locations spread out from Houston to Palmer and Wasilla to Knik.

Kathy Conn of Northgate Alaska said that in past years, the Valley Pastors Prayer Network organized a community church service, but this year decided to try a new approach.

She said research shows community-building efforts such as Real Love have lasting impacts. In other communities, similar projects have built a sense of ownership within the community, lowered crime rates, improved support for the disadvantaged and led to cleaner and more beautiful cities, Conn said.

“We want to go out and serve with no strings attached and as a group of people that is cohesive,” she said. “And it’s not about denominations or your church, you just love the name of Jesus and to show people in a tangible way.”

Religion is too often a point of fracture within our community. We don’t all agree when it comes to matters of faith; just flip to the Churches listing in the yellow pages and one finds dozens of congregations, not just one.

RealLove is a nexus that brings together all of us as neighbors and lets us work shoulder-to-shoulder building our community.

Among the events on Saturday were efforts at Colony High School, Houston Middle and Houston High schools and Knik, Goose Bay and Iditarod Elementary schools. Also, 100 backpacks full of school supplies were given away.  Sheds were built for Haven, a homeless relief project. Care packages of toiletries as well as snacks and treats were put together to share with homeless neighbors.

Wasilla Wonderland Park was repainted. Volunteers washed windows in downtown Palmer. And Valley shoppers at grocery stores “Stuffed the Truck” full of canned foods and nonperishable items to share with local food banks.

RealLove has also helped senior citizens over the past two months. Crews helped with yard work for seniors in the Palmer area and at the Wasilla Senior Center. Mechanics did auto checks, and medical professionals donated health screenings and school physicals.

The community came together when the work was done Saturday evening to share a meal, and for those who wanted to stick around, a community church service followed.

RealLove was a first-time event in the Mat-Su Valley, but one we hope will become part of our annual slate of community events.

Bravo to Valley Pastors Prayer Network and to all the volunteers who shared RealLove in the Mat-Su Valley this summer.

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