When Lenore Kimball Nitsch heard that President Thomas S. Monson was touring Welfare Square recently with a group of Church leaders, she could hardly wait to greet him.
As the Welfare Square switchboard operator for nearly 50 years, Sister Nitsch - known to many as the "voice" of Welfare Square - had through the years become acquainted with President Monson and other General Authorities who were closely involved in the welfare program. She holds all of them in the highest esteem.However, President Monson was called away from the group and wasn't able to complete the tour and see Sister Nitsch. She was disappointed but understanding. When her disappointment was relayed to President Monson by Elder Glen L. Rudd, former member of the Seventy and one-time director of Welfare Square, the second counselor in the First Presidency arranged to visit Sister Nitsch in his office.
She was accompanied to President Monson's office by Elder Rudd and Kevin Nield, manager of the bishops' storehouse. They reminisced about some of the people involved at Welfare Square through the years.
President Monson thanked Sister Nitsch for her devoted service. (Please see Feb. 6, 1988, Church News for profile of her life and service.)
"Thank you to a very sweet and capable worker whose voice reflected the spirit of Welfare Square," President Monson said to Sister Nitsch. "You have dealt with people who were down and out, who had reasons to be discouraged. You dealt with them all even-handedly - saint or sinner, young or old - you made them all feel welcome. We want you to know we appreciate you."
President Monson smiled as he added: "You could write a book after 50 years in that assignment. You have seen many, many people come and go through the gates of Welfare Square."
He recalled how, when he and Elder Rudd were bishops together in the Temple View Stake on Salt Lake City's west side, they would hold stake welfare meetings on the grounds at the square.
"I always appreciated the fact that our regular welfare meetings were held on those sacred grounds," he recalled. "It probably would have been easier to hold the meetings at a nearby meetinghouse, but we would bring in old folding chairs and have the meetings at the square. You could usually smell the aroma of food. It was good for us to be there."
President Monson also reflected for a few moments not only on his tenure as a bishop, but also on the role of bishops in welfare-related matters.
"I think every bishop should have a tender heart, an understanding heart," he mused. "Bishops need to be trained to recognize a need, and to step up and meet it."
On the wall of President Monson's office is a picture of the Savior. President Monson said he has had the picture since his days as a bishop. "When I look up there and see that picture, I haven't had any difficulty in determining what to do."
He asked Sister Nitsch about her plans for the "next 50 years."
"No matter how many years you have, just keep living them as you have at the storehouse, and you will be a happy person," he counseled. "You've been on the Lord's errand for 50 years because of your service to bishops, other Church leaders, and to the poor and needy."