Children line up for a 100-yard dash as part of the Oakton Stake’s food drive. (Laurie Snow Turner)
OAKTON, Va. — More than 2.5 tons of food was collected by members of the Oakton Virginia Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during a food drive and races Nov. 5 for the LINK Against Hunger program that benefits those in need in Herndon, Sterling and Ashburn, Va.
To celebrate the LDS Church’s 75th anniversary of its welfare program, President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor of the First Presidency, asked members around the world to perform a day of service.
Oakton Virginia Stake President Scott Wheatley said the stake members’ goal for the day of service was “to let those around us know we love and follow Jesus Christ in all we do. What better way to convey that message to our community that by serving them? We want our community to know that because we follow Jesus Christ, we serve others.”
The Oakton Virginia Stake includes nine wards organized geographically in the northern Virginia area, including Reston, Herndon, Spring Lakes (a Spanish-speaking congregation), Chantilly, Franklin, Fair Oaks, Vienna, Oakton and Oak Marr.
The event’s theme was “Put a Lid on Hunger” and included a 5K run or walk, a one-mile stroll and 100-yard dashes for children. One of the entry options was donating five cans of food.
More than 500 area Mormons attended the event, which raised about 2.5 tons of food. Another $1,000 worth of food will be donated to LINK from the LDS Church’s Washington, D.C., Bishop’s Storehouse, which is a church facility that provides basic foods and essential household items to needy individuals and families.
“What a machine they had going,” said Lisa Lombardozzi, president of LINK. “We had trucks parked along the curb, people pulled up and unloaded their food into the trucks and headed off to register for the walk/run. We had LDS missionaries helping us put the food into boxes and we kept filling truck after truck.”
President Wheatley said the stake members’ goal was to fill at least five trucks. “We hoped to overwhelm this good charity with our generous donations. We wanted them to see Christians in action as we showed up in droves with arms full of food to help the hungry. I think we achieved that goal,” he said.
“We got more food than we could fit on our shelves,” Lombardozzi said. “I welcomed the crowd and estimated there were a thousand people there! I thought I’d gather up the few canned goods that came in late. By the time the event was over, my little pile grew and grew. We made several trips back to my car to load up. I ended up with an SUV full of food and had to utilize another minivan, in addition to the seven truckloads of food, to cart it all back to the pantry.”
Anthony Foy, a LINK volunteer who helped load the trucks said, “It is humbling that all those people came together, and the sole fundraising focus was LINK. The LDS community certainly did bless our ministry.”
“Wow! What a rewarding day,” said Shon Beury, chairman of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Herndon and a LINK board member. “I’m so glad I was there to witness Christianity in action. How blessed we are!”
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell complimented the LDS Church’s welfare program and issued a day of service proclamation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He said, “2011 marks the 75th anniversary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Welfare Program, which has improved the lives of countless individuals in our commonwealth, these United States, and throughout the world, and which should be a model to all organizations and faiths as we work together to build a true commonwealth of opportunity.”
President Wheatley said, “To become a ‘model of service’ to other organizations and faiths, we need to become an integral part of our community by sharing what we know and what we have. This event helped us move in that direction.”