Our Season of Service

Inspired by some friends of our family, the Marshall family has decided to try a new way of exchanging Christmas gifts in 2012. We hope it will become a wonderful family tradition.
For years, the four Marshall children, their spouses, and their parents exchanged gifts every Christmas, but in 2011, we decided the gift-giving tradition may need a change since we are all so blessed and in need of truly nothing. We decided we needed to find a better way to celebrate the true Christmas spirit.

We suggested that we each perform acts of service in the name of the sibling whose name we were assigned at random. Our service will be kept a secret until Christmas Day.

Our friend drew the names for us and notified each of us privately of the person who should inspire our service. On Christmas Day, we reveal who we were given and how we chose to serve by posting our stories on The Marshall Family Season of Service blog.

We hope this tradition will help us focus on serving our communities and each other during the annual celebration of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We invite you to come back to our blog on Christmas morning to read this year's service.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Dear Craig,

For your Christmas gift this year, we purchased two shares of a goat. With any luck, these parts of goat will help a family in a 3rd world country make a better life for themselves and others in their community. After we read a story about a family who received a goat and was able to feed their family and produce some income, I knew what I needed to do for our Christmas service! Heifer International is an organization that provides livestock, clean water, educational opportunities, and various other benefits to families in 3rd world countries. They also provide the families with the education necessary to successfully put the gifts to good use. The families in return agree to pass along the things they learn and the gifts given when possible. According to Heifer International, "The gift of a dairy goat represents a lasting, meaningful way for you to help a little boy or girl on the other side of the world. Goats can thrive in extreme climates and on poor, dry land by eating grass and leaves. The gift of a dairy goat can supply a family with up to several quarts of nutritious milk a day - a ton of milk a year. Extra milk can be sold or used to make cheese, butter or yogurt. Families learn to use goat manure to fertilize gardens. Goats often have two or three kids a year making it easy for Heifer recipients to pass on the gift of a goat to another family in need. This great investment allows our partners to lift themselves out of poverty by starting small dairies that earn money for food, health care and education." Hopefully with this gift, a family can provide a better life for themselves and those in their community. Merry Christmas! Love, Anthony
Dear Wendy
When I drew your name I knew I should do something concerning animals. I know you have a special place in your heart for animals who need to be cared for. I made a donation to the Humane Society animal shelter. This donation should help them care for the animals better in this time of the year.
Love, Daddy

Dear Mother,

We were excited about the prospect of giving the gift of service this year. I liked the idea of celebrating the Savior's birth the way He lives, serving others. There is certainly no shortage of needs in our world, but I wanted to choose something that would allow the recipient to better their lives, rather than bettering that moment. After we read a story about a family who received a goat and was able to feed their family and produce some income, I knew what I wanted to do. I won't lie, the agricultural nature of the gift appealed to me; it's no secret I believe in farming! So, I looked up Heifer International, the charity mentioned in the book. Heifer International is an organization that provides livestock, clean water, educational opportunities, and various other benefits to families in 3rd world countries. They also provide the families with the education necessary to successfully put the gifts to good use. The families in return agree to pass along the things they learn and the gifts given when possible. We chose to purchase a flock of chicks in your name. According to Heifer International, "A flock of chicks can help families add nourishing, life-sustaining eggs to their inadequate diets. The protein in just one egg is a nutritious gift for a hungry child. Protein-packed eggs from even a single chicken can make a life-saving difference. Heifer helps many hungry families with a starter flock of 10 to 50 chicks. A good hen can lay up to 200 eggs a year - plenty to eat, share or sell. With Heifer recipients' commitment to pass on the offspring and training, the exponential impact of adding chickens to communities in poverty is truly a model that helps end hunger and poverty. Because chickens require little space and can thrive on readily available food scraps, families can make money from the birds without spending much. And chickens help control insects and fertilize gardens." Hopefully with this gift, a family can provide a better life for themselves and those in their community. Merry Christmas! Love, Wendy
Dear Heidi
 I did not know what  would be a good service project to honor you. I did read a lot about Heifer International.I decided that this group does follow the wise use of helping people in many under developed countries learn how to help themselves. They teach the people how to take care of crops and animals and how to work, this helps the whole community rise out of such poor conditions. After a family learns how to help themselves, they reach out to others to in turn raise another family out of poor conditions.
 In your honor, I bought a goat for a family to raise and provide for their family. I was excited to know that this will help a family provide the needs of their family.
  I know you too will feel the love of  Christ as we think of this family as they receive your gift.

Dear Anthony...

Dear Anthony,
I was excited to have drawn your name for the Christmas service exchange.  I thought of ways I could serve that would be of interest to you, possibly in the dentistry or orthodontic world.  I thought of your love of running and exercise and considered running the Race for the Cure 5k in your name.  When I injured my ankle playing basketball, the race was out of the question.  But still running along an athletic thread, I decided to coach Girls Youth Soccer at the YMCA.  And even better, Callan was on the team. 
In the Spring of this year and then again for the Fall season, I coached a total of 18 girls each week.  We had practices, ran drills, played games, and even traveled to Winston-Salem for some away games.  I attended coaching clinics to learn better coaching techniques.  I greatly enjoyed the experience.  All in all, I put in a total of 50 hours of volunteer coaching and I loved doing it.

I also participated in the "Stamp Out Hunger" National Food Drive by donating non-perishable foods via the postal service on May 12.

Thanks for giving me this opportunity.  I enjoyed spending time with the girls and Callan's "Hey Uncle Scott, did you know...." stories kept me entertained while she played goalie.  It was a great experience.
Posted by Picasa

Dear Owen...

Dear Owen,

I've been so excited this whole year to try out this Service Exchange idea.  I've loved the idea since I read about it over a year ago on the Gates Family blog.  As a family, we are so incredibly blessed and to be able to serve someone in need instead of buying an unneeded gift for you has been very exciting to me. 

When I first found out that I had you, I decided that I needed to build something for someone.  You know, you being the construction guy.  So, I thought it would only be appropriate if I built something.  The only thing I could come up with to build was some kind of food storage rotation contraption for my family.  But I didn't want it to serve my own family.  I wanted to serve someone out of my family.  So, I scratched that idea.

Then, I came across an opportunity through Downy to make quilts for children on extended stays in the hospital.  Though it isn't "construction", I thought I was constructing out of fabric, just not concrete.  And the idea of a quilt appealed to me since Haylee has introduced you to a love of quilts.  So, this is the direction I headed.  I contacted Downy, they sent my the fabric they wanted me to use, and I cut, sewed, and quilted a quilt for a child in the hospital.  On the tag of the quilt, it says it was donated by you and it's name is Monkey Mania.  This is touching to me, being a mother, to know how hard this would be as a parent to have a terminally or chronically ill child.  How these quilts must brighten their days and their hospital beds.

I thought I was done, but through Colfax Elementary, we came across one more opportunity that the kids wanted to be involved in.  This time, it was construction related!  The kids got to make and donate wooden birdhouses to beautify the school grounds.  Our family built and donated 2 green birdhouses.

I loved thinking about being service-oriented all year long.  I am so glad we did this!


Posted by Picasa

Dear Scott

Throughout the year i thought of many ideas i could do for my service project for you.  As i drove to work one morning i noticed a bum on the side of the road and wondered what i could do to help him.  I figured out that there might be certain things a less fortunate person might need.  Haylee and I created blessing bags to give out to a few homeless individuals.  The bags contained items like, a toothbrush, tooth paste, personal hygiene kit, combs, pop tarts, granola bars, hand sanitizer, etc...  We gave enough supplies to fill a gallon bag to each person.  We then drove around and handed them out.  I hope in some small way these blessing bags have helped or gave a small ray of sunshine on these less fortunate individuals.

Love Owen


Dear Terry,

All year long I have had the privilege of serving in your name.  I had many interesting and exciting opportunities come my way and I participated in some but none ever felt like the "right" experience to post about and count as my Christmas service project for you.  Then on October 19th as I casually scrolled though Facebook, I read that my friend, Savannah's, three and a half month old baby would be finishing his time on earth shortly.  

I broke down in sobs.  I prayed.  I cried again.  I prayed some more.

Baby Andrew had been sick from the start and his breathing problems were caught shortly following  birth.  The diagnosis went from slightly worrisome to serious and eventually to a rare genetic disorder with a low life expectancy.  We were still hopeful.  And the hospital stay went from days to weeks to months.  We were still hopeful.

Savannah would post daily, sometimes even more often, about Andrew's progress, his setbacks, her fears and doubts.  We, her friends, waited with baited breath for good news. We would cheer and mourn right along with her as different triumphs and struggles developed.

Everyone already loved Savannah.  She's one of those people who are impossible not to.  But through this trial, I saw many people grow to love her and her family even more, in a very humble way.  I know I was beginning to feel God's love for her, her baby, her family and others.  I was awestruck by the wide range of feelings and emotions I had for a friend I knew and loved but hadn't seen in years and for a child I had never even met.

Savannah had photo-documented Andrew's time here very well.  I knew that had I been in her shoes I would want something tangible to look at and hold.  I also knew that just having lost someone so precious and dear, she probably wouldn't have the time or heart to get it all done while grieving and mourning and healing.  So I set out to create a photo book of Andrew's life.  Some 40+ hours later and I still have no pictures or proof of its completion since I shipped it directly to her.

I can say though, that it was a profoundly moving project for me to work on.  My love for her and her family has multiplied.  I have felt the love of Heavenly Father and the Savior more presently in my life.  I feel my relationship with them has strengthened, as has my testimony of them, the Savior's life and mission and especially of eternal families.  I have experienced on a deeply personal level to joy of love for other's as God loves them, even without having met or been physically near one another.  My gratitude for my family, and especially my children, has grown.  And most importantly, my gratitude for my Savior, Jesus Christ, has increased.  What a great feeling to experience this time of year when our hearts and minds truly should be focused on HIM, the reason for the season.

Monday, December 24, 2012


Dear Haylee,

I began thinking of what I should do for my service earlier this year. In May of this year I was assigned to a new client and began traveling downtown every day. Needless to say I was not pleased with a daily commute of more than 3 hours. I felt like I was wasting hours of my life each day. So, during my long commute I began trying to think of ways that I could try and make my time downtown more meaningful. One day I was eating lunch in a park near my office downtown and took notice of the more than 15 homeless people sitting in the park around me. I decided to start small, and began on that day by taking half of my lunch and giving it to an old woman in the park. This went on for several days, I would save half of my lunch and give it to a different homeless person each day.

One day I was listening to general conference on the way to work and took note of the church's statistical auditing report. It made me think about how organized the church is in their own efforts to perform service. Up to this point my service had been inconsistent and I determined to be more effective in my service. So, I decided to set a small amount of money aside each month to be used as a family personal service fund. Instead of giving the homeless half of my lunch, as a family we administered  the service fund during FHE and I began purchasing water bottles and granola bars to give to the homeless downtown. I was able to provide relief to many more people than I was able to before. This service continued until I was reassigned and did not have a need to go downtown everyday.

Also, a few weeks ago our stake was asked to travel to NY to provide service to people who's homes had been damaged by hurricane Sandy.  I traveled with a group of over 500 saints to NY city to help clean and demolish damaged homes. The home that I was assigned to help at belonged to a fireman who responded to the twin towers on 9/11. The entire block where his home was located had been burnt to the ground because of a gas fire after the hurricane. Needless to say his family was devastated by the loss. We helped to clean the burnt material from his lot and demolish the first floor of his home so that he would be able to rebuild on his foundation.

Through the year I was able to feel the joy of service, see the hope it brought to those who had been struck by tragedy, and the smile brought to the faces of the hungry.

-Merry Christmas-

Dear Gina,

Dear Gina,

When I found out I drew you I knew exactly what I wanted to do. One thing we share in common is the flute. We both played the flute for years and I thought I could share my talent as my service gift. I haven't really put practice hours in since I was in the BYU flute choir eight years ago so I decided I needed to brush up. I spent some time practicing and contacted a nursing home that would enjoy some flute music. I scheduled a time in December I could share some Christmas carols. The evening  turned out wonderful. Many people came down from their rooms to listen. I was able to take requests because I had prepared lots of music. Craig and the kids also came which was extra entertainment for many lonely people. Ethan sang his jingle bells and Elizabeth ran around giving hugs. I know we made a special evening for many of the seniors there. They even asked us to come back again soon.

I knew I wanted to do Christmas carols on my flute for my service project at the end of the year, but I also wanted to be involved with something during the year.  There are many in our community who are less fortunate than us and are not even able to have food on the table for their children. At one school in our neighborhood teachers had noticed kids keeping food from their already subsidized lunches and breakfasts to take home Friday for the weekend. The teachers got together and asked the community to help these kids for weekends when they wouldn't have food. Our ward has participated in the "Snack Pack" program for Clearview Elementary. We provided healthy snacks for these kids to take home on Fridays to get them through the weekend. Our family was able to donate lots of oatmeal, juice boxes, peanut butter and other good stuff several times throughout the year.

I am grateful we can feed our children. It breaks my heart that there are innocent children in my neighborhood going to bed hungry. It has truly been a pleasure to know we have helped hungry little tummies.

We are grateful for the opportunity to serve--just as our Savior taught. Merry Christmas!