Welfare Services — 75th anniversary
It's easy. Send a link to the story you were just reading to a friend. Just fill out the form on this page and we'll send it along.
At the height of the Great Depression in 1936, priesthood leaders in the Salt Lake Valley gathered together to determine what they could do to collectively look after one another. The result was a program that would, during the next three-quarters of a century, expand to all corners of the globe and assist people of all faiths.
This year Latter-day Saints celebrate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Church's welfare program, designed to care for the needy, teach principles of self-reliance and provide service opportunities.
"With great forethought and great vision, what was called the Church Security System was conceived during the depth of the Depression," said Presiding Bishop H. David Burton. "For 75 years those principles that were enunciated very, very clearly at that time have been the bedrock principles by which the Church as an institution has gone forward to bless the lives of people that were in some kind of distress."
Bishop Burton called welfare an eternal principle that is part and parcel to who Church members are, what they represent and who they worship.
"I think that generally speaking members of the Church are very interested in helping one another. They know that pulling weeds in the sugar beet fields or picking grapes at the vineyard or canning peaches at the cannery or cleaning the Desert Industries building or whatever it might be, are, in part and parcel, a way they can render service to help their fellowman."
Key welfare facilities include, among others, Bishops' Storehouses, where household items are provided to those who cannot afford them; Employment Resource Service Centers, where people can receive job training, learn to enhance their resumé and find job opportunities; Deseret Industries, a nonprofit organization that serves as an employment training facility and operates thrift stores; and LDS Family Services, a nonprofit organization that provides counseling, adoption services and support groups.
Bishop Burton said these services become tools for bishops, who each have a divine call to seek out the poor and the needy.
Sister Julie B. Beck, Relief Society general president, said that welfare, at its very heart and core, involves people. Welfare started, she said, "with people who were hungry and who needed food and needed to work."
Sister Beck said when members of the Church work together "in helping take care of the needs of others in any little way," something fills their souls.
"There is something in this welfare program that identifies us as disciples of Jesus Christ, when we are giving something from our heart. ... We are never going to get paid in money, but we will be paid in the feeling that we are being the Lord's hands and His heart in something that He needs us to do."
Sister Beck said as Church members work together to help others, they become a "powerful, unstoppable force."
"I would hope that as a result of celebrating this 75th anniversary of welfare that people would examine in their hearts what they can do to strengthen the idea of welfare in their own lives and hearts and also participate in a bigger way. ... Most of the members of the Church don't live where we have a major welfare project, but they all live within a ward and a branch where there are plenty of needs."
Following are Welfare Services statistics, as of the end of 2010:
Humanitarian assistance rendered (1985–2010): $1.3 billion
Countries and territories served: 178
Food: 63,377 tons
Medical supplies: 14,345 tons
Clothing: 93,196 tons
Hygiene, newborn, and school kits: 11.1 million
Days of labor donated to Church welfare facilities (2010): 777,381
Employment placements (2010): 168,713
Home storage centers: 102
Production projects: 54
Processing facilities: 23
Storage and distribution facilities: 36
Employment resource centers: 326
Deseret Industries thrift stores: 43
LDS Family Services offices: 79
Number of missionaries serving in Welfare Services (2010): 8,583