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Utah religious leaders to aid volunteer effort

Religious leaders have thrown their support behind Gov. Mike Leavitt's call for a statewide volunteer effort to aid the children and young people of Utah.

A group of religious leaders representing the state's Catholic, Jewish, Protestant and LDS population joined Leavitt Saturday at a press conference at the Congregation Kol Ami synagogue to urge their congregations to turn out Wednesday evening for the governor's volunteer summit.Retired Gen. Colin Powell will arrive in Utah Wednesday and lead a rally on the steps of the state Capitol that afternoon to kick off Leavitt's "Volunteer Summit - Utah's Promise."

Volunteers are being asked to go to their neighborhood high school at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday where coordinators will be stationed to sign them up as tutors, mentors and for other child-related programs.

Powell has made volunteering his primary focus and Leavitt said the Utah trip is one of only a few Powell will make to individual states. Leavitt said he believes Powell is coming to Utah because of the state's commitment to the idea and its organization.

"I'm here today to call attention to the role the religious community plays in mustering volunteers for the larger community," said Leavitt.

He was flanked by Kol Ami Rabbi Fred Wenger; Sister Margo Cain, executive director of Catholic Community Services; Father Terry Moore of the Catholic Diocese; Pastor Roger Anderson of Our Saviour's Lutheran Church; and Carl Bacon, representing the LDS Church.

Serving youths is "our privilege, our priority, and our responsibility," Sister Cain said.

Jackie Leavitt, who has also been involved in planning the volunteer summit, said she is "warmed by the response of the religious community. They stir the hearts and the spirits of their people."

She praised the support the movement has gathered in the business community as well, noting that coordinators will be stationed at 104 high schools to sign up volunteers for local service projects.

"There's so much that can be done, whether it's working with young people, literacy projects, or working against crime," she said. "We can step up and reach out a helping hand to offer them what they need."