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The City Journals

National Day of Service reminds community of the power of coming together

Sep 29, 2021 12:45PM ● By Zak Sonntag

A little league football team ties fleece blankets for Santa Sacs. (Courtesy Jen Wunderli)

By Zak Sonntag | [email protected]

Residents gathered at Olympus High School in September for the National Day of Service to honor first responders and those who met their end in the Sept. 11 attacks 20 years ago. The event, hosted by the Interfaith Council and sponsored by Friend-2-Friend, a nonprofit group working to alleviate food insecurity, brought residents together for a night of service, honor and, despite the evening’s solemn reminders, high energy entertainment.

The ceremonies began with a poignant moment of silence. A heartfelt choreography to John Lennon’s “Imagine” followed. Then first responders got the blood flowing with a pushup contest before the Friend-2-Friend flash mob danced as DJ Scotty spun a hit-filled playlist. 

Participants assembled all-purpose kits for refugees and organized donated goods to bolster the Friend-2-Friend food pantry, which go to families in need of supplemental nutrition on weekends.

“We have families that are struggling and need to eat. People in our communities have kids that are not eating. They’re food insecure and people don’t know that. But we see them,” said Jen Wunderli, Friend-2-Friend founder and Holladay resident. “This is service in action. Fortunately, our community has the resources to help.”

The Friend-2-Friend youth council and community members tied blankets to be used in the Granite Education Foundation Santa Sacs, which are distributed along with other goods to underserved elementary children throughout the district. The community tied 600 blankets at the event with the help of a little league football team, who sat side by side wearing their jerseys tying blankets across their laps. 

Between service projects, participants satisfied their own nutritional cravings with the Wetzel’s Pretzels powered by Thirst food truck, then indulged their sweet tooth at locally owned Junk Jars. 

For those who attended the National Day of Service event, a sense of togetherness infused the night—a reminder that a community engaged in service can feel like more than the sum of its parts.

“I grew up in a community of all different faiths, and it’s important to remember we can be brought together, especially with all the division we’ve seen in our country,” Wunderli said. “After Sept. 11, all of a sudden everybody connected. Different colors, cultures, we all just grouped around each other and just talked to each other and came together.”