75 years of helping the poor
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As a 16-year-old boy, Glen L. Rudd took between 800 and 900 pounds of chicken meat to the Pioneer Stake Bishops' Storehouse for his father.
He watched as the heavy delivery was lifted up on the loading dock of the familiar building. He had heard about what went on inside, but had never seen it personally. He knew of the circumstances of many families in his stake; most of his friends' fathers were unemployed.
But on that day, he saw a what was really happening. "I knew we were helping the poor, the people in need," recalled Elder Rudd, a former General Authority who spent 25 years managing the Welfare Square the outgrowth of that first storehouse.
As a young man, he realized that during the height of the Depression, when almost 70 percent of the men in his stake didn't have jobs, the Church was offering help. As part of the storehouse, there was a coal and wood yard, a furniture workshop, a cannery and sewing center, and food much of it donated by people like his father, who owned a poultry processing plant.
Aug. 19 marked the 75th anniversary of the opening of that storehouse, the Church's first during the Depression.
Since then, the inspired program that started in the small storehouse located in downtown Salt Lake City on 333 Pierpont Ave., has grown. Today the Church operates 108 storehouses in the United States and Canada and an additional 29 in Latin America. There are storehouses in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
In addition, the Church runs 285 Employment Resource Centers, 44 Deseret Industries thrift stores, and 100 home storage centers. Church members donated 623,153 days of labor to welfare facilities in 2006 and 239,410 people internationally received training and jobs with the help of Latter-day Saint employment efforts, according to a Welfare Services fact sheet.
"I have passed this place thousands of times," said Elder Rudd, speaking of the Church's first storehouse and its significance. "I have always had great feelings for it. This was the beginning."
The storehouse began in early 1932, when then-Stake President Harold B. Lee and his counselors met with bishops in the Pioneer Stake. "It was decided after a good discussion that they better do something and do it quickly," Elder Rudd said. "It was decided that they would build a storehouse and learn how to fill it."
Stake leaders obtained the free use of the building on Pierpont Avenue and volunteers got the facility ready. Members of the Pioneer Stake fasted on the day of the official opening; they brought their contributions to the storehouse.
"It was an interesting thing that by the time it was finished, there was enough food and other items contributed to fill the storehouse," wrote Elder Rudd in a report about the storehouse. "Also, there was a spirit throughout the stake like there had never been before just plain brotherly love."
The storehouse, which filled the same function as early tithing offices, operated under the same principles as modern Latter-day Saint storehouses. "Everyone was supposed to work. That was the aim of the Church, to help people help themselves."
Elder Rudd said as commodity prices were very low in the 1930s, many farmers were unable to hire any help and most were harvesting what they could and letting the rest spoil. Storehouse officials including President Lee's then-counselor Paul C. Child, and storehouse manager Bishop Jesse M. Drury assigned Fred J. Heath and other unemployed men to contact the farmers and many men were sent onto farms in Davis, Utah and Salt Lake Counties and as far away as Idaho to harvest crops that were then shared with the volunteers.
Trucks arrived at the storehouse filled with fruits and other produce. Much of the fruit was canned, Elder Rudd recalled.
He said at one point so many onions (which were donated in abundance) and canned goods were stored in the upper level of the storehouse that the ceiling started to buckle. Props were placed to keep the ceiling from collapsing. Onions were traded for other necessities.
"Things began to fall (together) like a jigsaw puzzle and things really began to function to bless the lives of people," said Elder Rudd.
Soon the Salt Lake Stake asked if they could join with the Pioneer Stake storehouse. (Four years later they would move the facility to a larger building.) Other storehouses were established in the Murray and Liberty stakes. In addition, employment officers were set up in all six stakes then operating in the Salt Lake Valley.
For Elder Rudd, the Church's storehouses were the solution to a problem he would devote his life fighting. "I would watch people wait in line. I was one of those kids that hated to see people hungry." On one occasion he followed one of his father's employees to where he ate lunch, only to discover the man had nothing but potato peelings.
"I grew up in the middle of the Depression, with people who were suffering from the Depression."
The storehouse provided help. No one was ever turned away, he said.
"(The Pioneer Stake storehouse) became the pattern for all other storehouses, including the big storehouses built by the General Welfare Committee in 1938 and 1939, which were located on what has since been known as Welfare Square."
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