Y-Serve offers students a chance to give back this holiday season


By Lilly Vehikite and Kaylyn Wolf

Student volunteers for Refugee, a Y-Serve program, weave sleeping mats for refugees out of strips of plastic bags. BYU students with a desire to serve this holiday season can look to Y-Serve for opportunities. (Kaylyn Wolf)

BYU Y-Serve offers a variety of opportunities to give back to the community this holiday season for students looking to “go forth to serve.”

Sub for Santa

For those looking to ensure happy holidays for families in need this season, the Sub for Santa program provides gifts for families to open on Christmas day — including things they need, as well as toys and presents to enjoy.

Nick Jones, Sub for Santa student coordinator and a senior studying microbiology, said he recognizes how easy it is for people to get distracted with things they need to do for themselves or their families during Christmastime. Serving with this program presents him and other students the opportunity to reflect outward.

“We forget about those who can’t take care of themselves,” Jones said. “Instead of worrying about ourselves or our families, we can look at those that are in need, and going without this season.”

Volunteers will meet with participating families in person, get to know them and assess their needs. Jones said as Christmas grows closer, help will be needed sorting gifts and delivering them to homes.

Potential volunteers can visit the United Way website to sign up for a volunteer workshop or contact Y-Serve through " target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">email.


Refugee is the largest Y-Serve program according to one of its directors, Asia Whoolery. The service group meets every Wednesday night from 7-9 p.m. in the WSC Terrace.

Whoolery, a BYU sophomore studying public health, has been involved with Refugee since 2018. “Our purpose is helping refugees here in Utah as well as all around the world,” she said.

The service group makes a variety of needed items such as sleeping mats, quilts, stuffed animals, dolls and drawstring bags, Whoolery said. Their focus is on producing the physical items that will provide relief to refugees in need. 

“It’s really cool to be able to serve hands-on. As a student, I think a lot of what you do is with your head, and so it’s nice to do something with your hands and help someone,” Whoolery said.

A student volunteer stuffs a pillowcase with plastic bags to create a durable, eco-friendly pillow. Members of the Refugee service group at BYU work to create a variety of items to improve the lives of refugees around the world. (Kaylyn Wolf)

“Just coming to our activities on Wednesday evenings is a great way to help. We always need more hands,” Whoolery said.

BYU freshman Peter Kennedy is one of the extra pairs of hands serving with Refugee. At a previous Refugee service meeting, Kennedy wove a sleeping mat from interlacing strips of plastic bags.

“I really like being able to serve the refugees,” he said. “I just think there is such a need for even the bare necessities, like this.”

Caden Grace, another freshman at BYU and volunteer with Refugee, said she thinks service is so fun and really rewarding. “It’s really such a blessing that we are in a position where we can help out others who are less fortunate.”

Stop and Serve

Students can find times to serve amid their busy schedules at Y-Serve Stop and Serve. At Stop and Serve, anyone can participate in brief, walk-in service projects at the Y-Serve office in 2330 WSC.

According to Lindsey Clark, a BYU student majoring in public health and Y-Serve office assistant, Stop and Serve is open Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Volunteers are invited to sit down whenever they can and work on a rotating cast of service activities for as long (or as short) as they want.

A student crochets a hat in the Y-Serve office. Students can sit down and work on hats for donation or take part in other service opportunities as part of Y-Serve’s Stop and Serve. (Lilli Vehikite)

According to Clark, an ongoing project at Stop and Serve is crocheting hats that will be donated to people in need of warm winter gear.

“Some of them are more for children that are in care centers, and then a lot of them are also going to go to elderly members of the community,” Clark said.

Volunteers are invited to sit down and work on a half-finished hat or start their own, but they only need to work for as long as they can. No crocheting skill is required, Clark said.

“If (students) need instruction on how to make the hats, that’s what we’re here for,” she said. “And it’s the same for any of the projects. We can help them with any of it.”

The Y-Serve website includes information on 72 different programs and groups available for students to participate in.

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