ASHTON — In the New Testament, Jesus urges his followers to love their neighbors as he loves them.

The Ashton Community United Methodist Church and the Ashton Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints plan to follow that missive by hosting the first annual “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” event. The event starts at 7:30 a.m., on Saturday at the Ashton Community United Methodist Church, located at 178 5th St. 

“It’s just loving our neighbors. It’s working with our neighbors. It’s a group effort — it’s a community effort,” said Minister Desi Larson of the Methodist Church.

Larson said volunteers plan to gather for breakfast and will later divide into eight teams where they will take on an estimated 17 service projects. 

Plans call to have one group help wash fire trucks at the North Fremont Fire Protection Station. Another group will trim trees at 10 Ashton homes while other volunteers will clean park benches and clean the city park’s pavilion. Additional projects involve trimming trees and deep cleaning the Ashton Senior Center.

“We’ve got a group that’s going to split and stack wood in different places,” Larson said. “One team, the power washer team, is going to a couple different places. If we run out of projects. We can always pick up trash, clean the streets or whatever."

Larson came up with the "Neighbors Helping Neighbors" idea with friends Kendall and Susan Grant. Kendall Grant once served as a Latter-day Saint bishop in a Rexburg Ward. He is an English professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho.

“When he was a bishop, they did this sort of thing. In my last church, in Maine, it was about ‘Loving your neighborhood and working with your neighbor.’ We’ve started throwing the idea around about a year ago. We finally decided ‘Let’s set a date and go for it,’” Larson said.

Kendall Grant said Ashton is a community where residents want to help fellow residents.

“People take great care of each other. We live in a beautiful place,” he said.

Larson cited findings from Ashton’s recent community review which showed a high level of concern for each other.

“The community review’s headline was that ‘compassion’ is the top value in Ashton. I think this is a place that seems a lot more compassionate. We are one of the more remote places. We have to try and take care of each other. It’s a lovely community,” she said.

Both Larson and Grant noted how Ashton residents recently helped raise money for the Methodist Church’s badly needed roof during the "Raise the Roof" event.

“It was a miracle. The roof is beautiful and almost paid off,” Larson said.

“That was such a powerful event to be able to build off of and to keep that kind of activity going,” Grant said.

During the “Raise the Roof Fundraiser,” Ashton churches united to help the Methodist Church. There wasn’t any discussion on whose religion was right.

“The only theology is ‘Love one another as I’ve loved you.’ That’s the theology — love God, love one another,” Larson said.

Kendall Grant said that events aimed at working for a community cause prove fun.

“It’s just getting to meet more people in the community. It’s helping those who need some help. It usually brings a pretty fun spirit with it,” he said.

Larson hopes that the Neighbor Helping Neighbor event will become a yearly one.

“I would love to expand it and have businesses participate,” she said.

For now, the expectation is to make Ashton shine this weekend, Larson said.

“Hopefully, by the end of (Saturday) morning, we will see a noticeable difference as we navigate through the neighborhood,” she said.

At noon, volunteers are invited to celebrate at the Methodist Church with a free lunch. For information on the upcoming project, call 208-356-3033 or 208-652-7356.

To contact Lisa Dayley Smith write to lsmith@uvsj.com