Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square

This Sacred Plan
We are blind until we see
That in the welfare plan
Nothing is worth the making
If it does not make the man.

Why build these storehouse facilities,
If the poor man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the work and facilities,
Unless the giver and the receiver also grow.
                              (adapted from poem by Edwin Markham)

My brother recently told me that he wanted to visit Welfare Square. One of his teachers had told him it was amazing. I needed to go to Salt Lake City, Utah, so I looked up information online about tours at Welfare Square and found that I could also go to the Humanitarian Center. I called and determined the times of the tours and set off.

I arrived 35 minutes early at the Humanitarian Center. It was suggested that I do service while I waited. I was able to help put hygiene kits together. These kits are given to people during natural disasters and to those in other countries who do not have the items. These kits include two hand towels, two combs, two bars of soap, 1 tube of toothpaste, 4 toothbrushes and a language card. The language card, in several languages, explains that the kit is a gift from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Part of the service included going through kits that had been sent in as donations to assure quality. If the toothpaste or soaps were too small, the service workers replace them. If the combs, towels or toothbrushes are too small and inexpensive, they are traded out with new ones. The church only sends out the best. The pieces taken out of these kits are sent to Deseret Industries. 

The service also included putting together hygiene kits where the church supplies the items. These are purchased with monies from church members humanitarian donations.   

After working on kits, I went for my tour. It was very impressive. The center receives 3000 pounds of unsorted clothing and shoes per week.  In 2009 the center sorted and distributed 9 million pounds of clothing and shoes. Eighty-five percent of donations of clothing and shoes given to Deseret Industries, a second-hand thrift store, eventually go to the Humanitarian center. Fifteen percent are sold at the Deseret Industries to provide those in need an ability to buy quality goods at a reduced price. At the Center refugees and immigrants work and sort through the clothes. They work are paid for an 8-hour shift. For four hours they study English as a second language and for four hours, they sort clothes and shoes into categories. If the clothes are not up to standards, they are recycled or sold to other second hand clothing shops. The money is used to purchase wool blankets to be shipped out in the Humanitarian efforts.

The refugees and immigrants receive on-the-job training so they are better suited for work in the community. The Humanitarian places many of these workers in business partnerships in the community. This gives the worker an opportunity to gain additional skills while the church still pays their wage. Many of them are placed into jobs each year.  

At the center they explained the difference between humanitarian and welfare efforts. Humanitarian aid is for people who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and welfare is for those who are. That is basically the dividing line, who actually receives the benefits, but the goods given out are basically the same.

The Humanitarian Center concentrates its efforts in many different areas. They make and raise money to supply hygiene kits, school kits (a book bag and basic school supplies for children), newborn kits (a bag with cloth diapers, blankets, little caps, a layette gown and other things for newborns so they don’t have to go home from the hospital in newspapers), quilts, wall hangings (for orphanages so the babies don’t have to stare at blank walls preventing damage to their eyes), medical supplies, wheelchairs, vision care, immunizations, neonatal training, water pumps for villages, farming techniques (see the Benson Institute), Atmit (a food supplement to combat malnutrition and starvation), kits for natural disasters and emergencies (cleaning kits and food kits that provide a family of four food for a week).

Some 2009 statistics of deliveries and people helped:

500,000 hygiene kits
430,000 school kits
93,000 newborn kits
55,000 quilts (4,000 a month)
56,017 wheelchairs
223,242 people received vision care
5,660,780 immunizations were given
27,242 people trained to use neonatal kits
989,571 people provided with clean drinking water (town pumps)
8,400 people trained in better farming techniques
102 disasters were responded to in 48 countries

The purpose of the Humanitarian and Welfare efforts is to help people help themselves and become more self-reliant, to help people have opportunities for service and growth and to provide help and assistance for those in need. The church works in conjunction with other entites that are already in place to help others, such as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.

The tour ends with a movie entitled “Ye Have Done it Unto Me” (Matthew 25:40). It is well worth watching. It was one of my favorite humanitarian videos before I visited the center. Now it means a lot more.

My next stop, Welfare Square. The missionaries who cover the Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square serve in the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. The mission has nine zones, all of them located on temple square, except for the Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square Zone.

The tour at Welfare Square starts with a video called “Pure Religion.” It describes welfare and aid as the essence of the message of the Savior. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted those who needed comfort, served those around him, inspired the down trodden and restored hope to the faint in heart. That is what the Humanitarian and Welfare Programs are created to do. They help people help themselves. On Welfare Square people are provided with food, clothes, employment, training and social services. “Pure Religion” talked of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its many farms, canneries, storehouses, work training centers, counseling and social service centers. These have been established to relieve emotional, spiritual and temporal suffering.  Fast offerings are explained. On Fast Sunday, members donate monies saved by skipping two consecutive meals (24 hours). This happens on the first of every month. More money can be donated, but the cost of the two meals is what is asked. These donations are used to supply the needs of the local congregation.  The movie ends with James 1:27: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” 

The three-fold mission of the Welfare program is to care for the poor and needy, to foster self-reliance and to encourage service and charity from those who are more self-reliant. We went through the storehouse, which is set up like a small grocery store, without lines and registers. Most of the food has a Deseret label, which means it is produced by the church. Some of the commodities, such as tuna, are purchased from other companies because of cost effectivness. Using the monies from fast offerings, a bishop of a ward, or congregation, can give out voucher’s that a member can use to purchase goods and commodities at the storehouse.

Behind the storehouse is a vagrancy office, for those who need help, but who aren’t members of the church. Between sixty to eighty vagrants are helped per day.

The storehouse has on hand a three to six month supply for the shelves of the storehouse. This is also where emergency food kits are put together for natural disasters. Each kit contains a one-week supply of food for a family of four.

The quality of the food produced is carefully monitored. Brigham Young, the second President of the Church said, “If you give anything for the building up of the kingdom of God, give the best you have.” A Quality Assurance Lab makes sure that everything the church gives is the very best.

Inside the same building is the Deseret Bakery. They have five employees and the rest of the workers are volunteers from local wards. The bakery produces between three to five thousand loaves of bread per day five days a week. This bread is distributed, via Deseret Transportation Company, to Bishop’s Storehouses in California, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado.

Next we visited the employment center. The church has many of these across the world. Some are staffed with full-time employees. Others are staffed with only volunteers. The time, talents and skills of members are used to help train and qualify those searching for jobs. Resumes are made, workshops are conducted. Any help that can be given is offered.

Across the parking lot is the one of the church’s canneries. Here many kinds of jams and sauces are produced. Church owned farms, orchards, vineyards and mills produce as many of the ingredients as possible. Three labels are available for each product. One is a family canning label. Families are encouraged to have a year’s supply of food. To help with this effort, they may volunteer to work and gain the opportunity to buy the canned food at a reduced cost. I have done this and it is a very good opportunity. I have helped with jams, spaghetti sauce and meats. I have purchased jams, salsa, spaghetti sauce, soups, chili, meats and many other commodities (referred to as wet-pack). The next label is the Deseret label, that is meant for Bishop’s Storehouses for members who are poor and needy. The third label is a humanitarian label for distribution to those who are not members of the church, but who are in need. (A fourth Christmas gift label is also available during the holidays.) 

The canning facility also has a dry-pack area where dried goods, such as sugar, flour, wheat and beans, can be packed in #10 cans and stored for up to thirty years. Bulk items can be canned in the facility and purchased at a reduced cost, or they can be taken home and canned there. It is one of 105 LDS canning facilities in the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Members volunteer to work at the facilities and may take friends of other faiths with them. I have such a friend who loves to go with me to the cannery. She says it helps her feel like she is making a difference in the world. It also helps her build up her food storage to supply for her family’s needs. I look forward to her phone calls, as she calls me each time she tries a new item. We’ve had a lot of fun at the cannery and look forward to our next trip.

On-site the church has a very large granary. It holds 16 million pounds of grain. It is one of thirty such storage sites that the church owns in the United States. (The equivalent of 720,000,000 one-pound loaves of bread, more than two loaves for every person in the United States, is what is stored.) Every four-five years the granaries are emptied and the contents go into the welfare/humanitarian effort. They are then refilled with fresh grain from one of 64 church welfare farms.

Church Welfare farms produce different commodities, some of which are strawberries, potatoes, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, apples, grapes (for raisins), nuts, pears, beans, cattle, and milk. The labor is provided by a few hired employees and the rest is provided through volunteer labor. The lands, equipment and production fees are paid for with the fast offerings of church members.  

Next we went to the Deseret Industries, a second hand thrift store, where I found some really nice, inexpensive books. Members are encouraged to donate items that are still good, instead of selling them at yard sales. In this facility many workers are in the back sorting the goods that come in. They are all in a job training program similar to the one at the Humanitarian Center. Deseret Manufacturing is located a few blocks away. Here workers obtain all the training and skills necessary to produce new furniture and mattresses that are sold in the Deseret Industry stores. Scholarships are available for the workers who want to obtain more schooling.

The Deseret Dairy was the final stop. It is one of 18 food processing facilities owned by the Latter-day Saints. Church owned farms produce the milk that is shipped here to be processed into whipping cream, cottage cheese, sour cream, butter, pasteurized milk, chocolate milk, powdered milk and mild cheddar cheese.

In the cheese making area, the curds are pressed into 40 pound blocks, aged for one month, cut into 1 pound bricks and packaged for distribution at Bishop’s Storehouses. It takes 34,000 pounds of milk to produce 3,200 pounds of cheese. The Church concentrates on using everything it has. The whey is fed to the livestock and the trimmings from the cheese are distributed to local food banks. In 2009, these foodbanks, owned by various faiths,  saved $200,000 using these trimmings.

At the end of the tour each person is offered bread, jam, peanut butter, cheese and chocolate milk, products of Welfare Square and other church processing facilities. Each product is of the highest quality. The cheese is the best mild cheddar I have ever tried. Natural, high quality, fresh ingredients make a difference.

I hope to be able to visit the Humanitarian Center and Welfare Square again, not for a tour, but next time to work. It was well worth the time taken to visit and tour these facilities. I learned a lot and truly appreciated the spirit of helping those in need.

The scriptural account of Christ and the pool of Bethesda (John 5) was shared at each facility. There was a legend that at the Pool of Bethesda was troubled, or stirred by an angel. Whoever was able to get into the water first would be healed. A man had a sickness for 38 years and was there waiting to get into the water. Jesus asked him, ”Wilt thou be made whole?” The man answered him, “Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.” The man had done his very best, all that he could do. That is when Christ can take over. That is true in every aspect of our lives. We pray for guidance and strength and do all that he asks us to do, then he steps in and says, “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” And immediately we are made whole. Just as the man at the Pool of Bethesda was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked. 

May we all love and serve the Lord to the best of our abilities, by giving to the poor and needy, the sick and the lame, the fatherless and orphans, and all of God’s children who are in need. May we be his hands and do for others what he would do for them if He were here., that they may see His hand and feel His love in all that is done. It is He who asks us to give service, it is He who showed us how to love, it is He who has blessed us with the spirit of charity. It is His name through which all of this is done. God be thanked for the matchless gift of His Son.

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