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LDS stake in Virginia Helps Gather more than 2.5 tons of Food for Local Food Bank

Children line up for a 100-yard dash as part of the Oakton Stake's food drive. (Laurie Snow Turner)

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.”

 

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Outstanding Stability: Philanthropists Eye LDS Model of Self-Reliance

Philanthropists eye LDS model of self-reliance

Elder Richard Hinckley, left, walks with Alan Marty by bales of clothing at the Humanitarian Center, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2011, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

They may seem drastically different: a nonprofit that helps children build lemonade stands, an organization that encourages character building through sports and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But they all have the same underlying goal: to promote economic self-reliance.

The LDS Church Thursday was the last stop on a nationwide tour highlighting best practices in economic self-reliance. During a two day conference sponsored by The Philanthropy Roundtable, representatives from charitable foundations across the country took a tour through Welfare Square, the LDS Humanitarian Center and the Bishop’s Central Storehouse.

“We came to Utah to see Welfare Square because it is one of the nation’s greatest models of cultivating self-reliance, not only for members of the Mormon faith but for people of all backgrounds,” said Shannon Toronto, COO of The Philanthropy Roundtable, a national network of individual donors, corporate giving officers and foundation trustees.

Previous stops on The Philanthropy Roundtable’s economic opportunity tour included Lemonade Day in Houston, which teaches children business skills, and Florida’s Positive Coaching Alliance, a nonprofit that teams up with athletic leagues to teach principles of family and community.

The Philanthropy Roundtable, which is based in Washington D.C., seeks, among other efforts, to improve charitable outcomes by educating donors, Toronto said. Economic Opportunity, as it relates to self reliance, is one of the organization’s major initiatives.

“We learned from our meeting today that the best programs recognize the dignity of the individual and that the highest quality of life is attained when a person becomes self reliant and can help others within her realm of influence,” Toronto said.

Founded during the Great Depression when unemployment rates reached 50 to 70 percent in many areas, the LDS Church designed Welfare Square to help address both hunger and idleness, said Jim Goodrich, who manages the operation. Welfare Square consists of a storehouse, a bakery, a cannery, a milk processing plant, a thrift store and an employment center. For the most part, the operation is staffed by volunteers.

In the beginning, men put in a day of work on a farm in exchange for food from a small grocery store called the Bishop’s Storehouse, Goodrich said. Today, the work is different: people “pay” for their food by completing a wide range of tasks ranging from canning vegetables to sorting clothes at the church’s thrift store. But the principle isn’t.

“We want to help people help themselves,” said Terry Oakes, managing director of LDS Welfare Services. “We don’t believe in giving handouts. We believe in giving hand ups.”

The LDS Church also centers its international humanitarian aid program around self-reliance, said Sharon Eubank, director of humanitarian services and a member of the General Relief Society General Board. When the church enters a rural community in Guatemala to install a well, for example, villagers are required to contribute to the effort.

“They can’t buy the cement, but they can mix the cement and they can dig the hole,” Eubank said. “Involving them in the process allows them to maintain their dignity.”

Several other charities, including Utah Youth Village, American Indian Services and Project HOME, presented during a luncheon at the Joseph Smith Memorial building. Utah Youth Village encourages self-reliance by teaching children the communication and social skills they need to succeed in school and work, said Eric Bjorkland, president. American Indian Services only offers partial college scholarships so young adults have the opportunity to contribute to their own education.

“We believe if a student can meet us halfway they are demonstrating a personal commitment to fulfill their own goals,” said Yvonne Curley, a board member at American Indian Services.

After attending the conference, Marcia Argyris, senior program officer for the California-based S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, said she has a “different impression of the Mormon Church.”

“I think this whole idea of asking what a person receiving services can give back is interesting,” she said. “Instead of just accepting something and walking away, they are working for it. I think that’s very important.”

Stan Swim, who attended the conference, said his organization the GFC Foundation in Pleasant Grove favors programs that support self-reliance when doling out money.

“We have a responsibility to care for the poor,” he said. “We are trying to do it in a way that rebuilds people.”

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