When you speak with Kristina Shimazaki, it’s clear that she has a heart for service and a gift for connecting people. By day, she is a teacher’s assistant to special education youth, and, in her time off, she is the Oakton Stake Assistant Communication Director, for JustServe, an online database that connects volunteers with community volunteer needs. She has been in this role for the past three years and has made tremendous contributions during her tenure, due in part to her knack for fostering relationships in her community.
This gift for connection is what first brought Fellowship Square into the purview of the Sterling Church of Latter-Day Saints. The then-head of the church’s women’s organization wanted to find a fun way to give back while promoting community within the congregation. She landed on the idea of apple picking and donating the produce but wasn’t sure where this donation would make the most impact. Kristina had been made aware of Fellowship Square and thought this would be a perfect partnership. With that conversation began the church’s yearly apple-picking outing and donation to the Hunters Woods Fellowship House.
For the past three years, a group from the congregation of the Church of Latter-Day Saints has gone to Stribling Orchard in Markham, Virginia, and picked bushels of apples for Fellowship residents. The orchard graciously doesn’t charge members for admission and has discounted the price of the bags so that the congregation could send as many apples as possible to Fellowship Square. This year, the group donated well over 100 pounds worth of produce.
At Hunters Woods, the apples are always greeted with wide smiles. A key area of wellness across all Fellowship Houses is physical health and nutrition, and generous donations like these help us to ensure that all our residents have access to food that keeps them healthy and helps them to thrive. A healthy diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is critical to preventing chronic diseases, promoting mental acuteness, and boosting immunity. Fellowship Square is eternally grateful to community partners like the Sterling Church of Latter-Day Saints who help our residents continue to live their best lives. Kristina put it best when she said in the world that we live in, while religion is important, connection and helping our communities are vital for all of us.
-Kristen Fitzgerald, Volunteer Program Manager