It started almost two decades ago when Creek Crossing Harvest Church pastor Dan Aleman – now the city councilman for District 6 – approached then-mayor Mike Anderson looking for ways the men in his church could get involved more in their community.

“The council and I used to meet with the Mesquite Ministerial Alliance and I’ll never forget Dan coming up to me one day and saying, ‘You know, Mayor, we have a lot of men in our church and they don’t like to pray out loud, they don’t want to sing in the choir but they want to do something. Find something for us to do in the community,’ ” Anderson said. “And I said, ‘What if we found a way for them to help people who can’t help themselves?’ ”

From that simple conversation, the now annual Addressing Mesquite Day was born. The event – scheduled this year for Oct. 2 – has grown by leaps and bounds since then and has helped more than a thousand homeowners with projects such as building wheelchair ramps, repairing a fence, exterior wood replacement and minor paint projects, other repairs and landscaping needed by senior citizens, single parents, military veterans, the disabled and others.

Addressing Mesquite Day – a joint effort of the City and the MMA – has become Mesquite’s largest community service project and one of the most successful and sustainable volunteer events by a community in North Texas.

And while AMD is still a little over five months away, city officials this week kicked off a drive to recruit volunteers as part of National Volunteer Week.

Maria Martinez, the director of Neighborhood Services, said National Volunteer Week is a great time to recognize the power of volunteers in Mesquite who help build a stronger community with Addressing Mesquite Day.

“The people and volunteer groups are an inspiration,” Martinez said. “We want to thank them for their eagerness to serve and recognize those who lend their time and talent to make a difference in Mesquite.”

Harry Sewell, the lead pastor at Family Cathedral of Praise who also serves the community with the MMA, recalls the early days of the event and expressed awe about how it’s grown since.

“None of us really knew how it was going to work but whoever dreamed that on a given Saturday we would go to over a hundred homes with a thousand volunteers,” Sewell said. “We just never dreamed that it would grow to what it is today. It’s just amazing that we could work together so well.”

Sewell said AMD can be described in simple terms.

“Unity is what comes to my mind with Addressing Mesquite Day – seeing everyone coming together. It’s a great day,” he said. “It’s been an answer to prayer for them (recipients) because it gives help in an area they cannot help themselves. By helping those who cannot help themselves, it gives volunteers a blessing and a feeling that money cannot buy.”

Anderson echoed those sentiments.

“It’s a blessing to the recipients and to the volunteers and it shows that spirit that Mesquite has,” he said. “That’s why I still live here and will never leave.”

Martinez said that while AMD is scheduled for just a single Saturday in October, it could go beyond a one-day event. In an effort to provide a safe work environment and avoid large gatherings during the pandemic, volunteer groups can coordinate work on projects weeks before or after Oct. 2.

AMD has also spawned another community service endeavor – Helping Others in Mesquite Everyday, which also assists elderly, low-income and disabled residents with minor home repairs they otherwise couldn’t afford through an ongoing effort. The first HOME project in 2016 was completed by eight off-duty Mesquite firefighters who replaced a 60-foot section of dilapidated fence for a homeowner. HOME – a collaborative partnership between Keep Mesquite Beautiful, the City of Mesquite and community volunteers.

Local AMD volunteer groups also help local residents during their organization’s community service weekends. Martinez said AMD group leaders will often assist with yard work during the summer if it’s a disabled senior who lives on a very limited income.

AMD also gives volunteers something in return.

“The greatest reward is a simple thank you that is extended by local city officials as well as the Mesquite Ministerial Alliance and the opportunity to serve and help better their community,” Martinez said. “The testimonials are the most memorable moments. You may witness tears, laughter or a pure sense of gratitude. The most memorable is a recent widower whose husband had passed away. He had started an exterior home repair but didn’t get a chance to complete it. Volunteers made sure that the project was completed.”

Martinez said there are also opportunities for volunteers who might not be physically able to join the activities at homes scattered throughout the city. She said those chances include helping to spread the word about volunteering, referring those who may need assistance and helping find businesses willing to provide materials and supplies.

“It’s a great community spring cleanup but held in the fall,” Martinez said. “It’s a great way for neighbors to kick off the holiday season and promotes engaging with neighbors.”

The last day for homeowners to complete a request form is June 25 and volunteers have until July 23 to sign up. Last year, in spite of the pandemic, City staff and council members teamed with clubs, businesses, school, civic and faith-based organizations. More than 350 volunteers participated and area businesses also provided $40,000 in monetary and in-kind donations.

For more information, contact Yolanda Wilson, Neighborhood Services, by calling 972-216-6473 or by email at amd@cityofmesquite.com. More information is also available online for those needing assistance and for volunteers.

Kent Miller is a Mesquite native with three decades of newspaper experience. His passion for community journalism is reflected in his work on Make It Mesquite. He also produces editorial content for the City of Mesquite through Pegasus Media Dallas.