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Virginia brothers start free shuttle to Kensington temple

By Alex Ruoff,

Paul and Stephen Saunders are big fans of the Mormon temple in Kensington and want others to be as well.

The Crystal City brothers said they’re so eager to attract more worshippers that they have started a free, independent shuttle service from a nearby Metrorail station to the temple during afternoon rush hour.

“The problem I think most people have with getting there is the traffic,” Stephen Saunders said.

The Washington D.C. Temple, on Stoneybrook Drive, was built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1968. The temple itself is off-limits to those who do not belong to the church, but a visitors center sits on the same grounds and offers regular tours and events.

In Maryland, the Mormon Church has 40,854 members and 78 congregates for the Kensington temple, according to the church’s Web site. The District has 2,382 members.

To celebrate Christmas each year, the temple grounds are decorated with lights and a life-size Nativity scene, dubbed the Festival of Lights.

Stephen Saunders, a 36-year-old Web developer, said he and his brother, who are both members of the church, started offering free rides to the temple in June this year in a 14-person commuter van they purchased for about $10,000 of their own money. To date, they have given 1,087 people rides to or from the temple grounds.

Paul Saunders, 32, also a Web developer, said many of those riders have been thankful for their service, saying they otherwise would not have taken the trip into Kensington.

“It is rewarding, in that way, to hear them say they probably wouldn’t have come if not for [the shuttle],” he said.

The shuttle makes regular stops each day between 5:30 and 10:30 p.m. at the Forest Glen Metrorail station. It takes about seven minutes to drive from the station to the temple, Saunders said. The shuttle will continue until Friday.

The service is not affiliated with the Mormon Church or the temple, Stephen said. The brothers receive no financial support from either entity.

Although the ride is free, the brothers accept donations to support their service. Stephen said the cost to operate the service is about $25,000 per year, which includes fuel and maintenance for the van. He said he’s hoping to get enough donations to cover their expenses from this year and expand services next year. The expansion would include more dates of service, Saunders said.

For information about the shuttle, visit www.templeshuttle.org.

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