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Idled cannery put to use feeding homeless

When Richmond Virginia Stake president Larry E. Tolpi was informed that the LDS cannery in the Richmond area would not be used during 1989, it was natural for him to begin thinking of ways the city's homeless could use the facility.

It was natural because for almost three years, the stake and its members have been involved in helping the homeless here. Richmond, a city with a population of 500,000, ranks among the top six cities in the United States for its number of homeless.

"President Tolpi has been very supportive of the stake's efforts to help the homeless in the area," explained Dr. Lee Pratt, the stake's public communications director. "As soon as he heard about the cannery, he felt directed to obtain approval for the homeless to use the canning facilities."

A project to can food began on Jan. 14, when a group from the Daily Planet, Richmond's center for the homeless, arrived to can applesauce. Daryl Sheley, cannery manager, took the group on a tour and explained the process. After an opening prayer, the homeless got to work coring, peeling, boiling and canning the apples.

"There were 642 cans of applesauce canned that day," Sister Pratt reported. "And an additional 400 were canned the next Saturday."

The apples were donated by a local produce company, the can labels were printed by a local printer, and the Church provided the cannery facility and supervision. Local television and newspapers covered the story. Sister Pratt said that several local businesses and companies became aware of the canning project and have offered to donate other products.

"The volunteers from the homeless center will be canning other fruits and vegetables, as well as chili, pork and beans, and various other items," noted Sister Pratt. "I think they'll be using the cannery almost every Saturday during this year."

After sending samples of each canned item to the Benson Institute at BYU to assure quality, the canned food will be given to the Daily Planet to be used in feeding the homeless.

The stake's involvement with the street center and helping the area's homeless began in 1986, according to Sister Pratt. "During that year, each of the six units in the stake took a turn organizing, purchasing, preparing and then serving breakfast at the Daily Planet," she said. "In 1987, each unit did it twice and we've been increasing our commitment since then."

Each unit handles its turn differently, Sister Pratt observed. "In one ward, the Relief Society purchased the food, the Young Women helped prepare it, and then the Scouts and priesthood quorums took it to the center and served it. Sometimes an entire ward will be involved in the whole project. It just depends on the individual wards."

The stake was recently recognized for its efforts with the homeless when Sheila Crowley, a director at the Daily Planet, attended a stake conference and presented Pres. Tolpi with a plaque. "She said she'd never seen such a large group of people involved on an ongoing basis," said Sister Pratt.





Many youth leaders agree that getting involved in helping the homeless is a perfect way to see the principle of service actually applied in real-life situations.

"Helping the homeless gives the youths an opportunity to see how service can touch others. It gives them a chance to feel good about themselves and what they're doing and to learn about loving others," explained Susan Zechiel, Young Women president in the North Shore 2nd Ward in Wilmette, Ill. "I think it also helps them realize and be grateful for their own blessings."

In October, the Laurels in Sister Zechiel's ward took plastic bags around to a small area of the community. Attached to each bag was a note explaining that they were gathering shoes for the homeless and would return in two days to pick up the bags. "All the young men and young women helped us gather up the bags," Sister Zechiel said.

Three months later, in December, the youths and their leaders decided to do the same thing, on a much larger scale. "This time, we took bags around and asked for clothing as well as shoes," explained Sister Zechiel.

The group then sorted into piles what they had gathered and took the items to two Chicago centers - one for men and one for women and children. "We wanted to find a place where we could actually take the things," said Sister Zechiel. "We didn't just want to drop them off - we wanted to give the youths an idea of who we were really doing this for."

At the women and children's shelter, located in a renovated hotel, the youths also helped serve lunch and then spent time with the people there.

"I think we all got a sense of the magnitude of what needs to be done," observed Sister Zechiel. "And I think we all got a sense of what it means to not have a home or food or family support." - Kellene Ricks



Despite temperatures that hovered near zero, a group of 10 youths from the East Millcreek (Salt Lake City) 7th Ward felt good about the time they spent on Feb. 5 helping to feed the homeless and needy in downtown Salt Lake City.

The service project was the second trip the group had taken to the area where the hungry gather every Sunday morning for a meal.

"It was freezing cold," said Ida Lee Reaveley, Young Women president. "We were peeling potatoes and they froze on the spot. Then they gave us onions and the same thing happened."

Last winter when the ward made its first visit, they canvassed the ward for cans of chili and cocoa beforehand and then held a testimony meeting afterward.

Members of the Bountiful (Utah) 10th Ward share similar feelings about their experiences with helping the needy. Last year, after a ward fireside on service, ward members banded together and planted a garden, with plans to donate the harvest to the Salt Lake Food Bank. The youths in the ward became heavily involved in a garden project, said Diane Nichols, then Young Woman president.

"The young men and young women helped plant, did a lot of the weeding and cultivating, and then took the produce down to the food bank," said Sister Nichols. The Bountiful ward is planning to duplicate the project again this summer. "And I'm sure the youth will be just as heavily involved," Sister Nichols said.




Responding to the scriptural mandate to have charity toward the needy, members in the Anaheim California East Stake have taken an active role in helping provide housing for the homeless.

The two wards have "adopted" an apartment in a 10-unit apartment building, "The Halcyon Shelter for Homeless Families," that the Anaheim Interfaith Shelter Inc. acquired last April.

Various church groups in the community furnish and maintain the apartments, make minor repairs, clean and, if necessary, paint walls and ceilings after one family moves out and before another family moves in. Cleaning in the apartment adopted by the LDS group is done by young men and young women from the two wards.

"Families, who are helped to find jobs, may live in the apartments rent free for two months," said stake Pres. William E. Perron. "If it were not for this building, some of the families would be on the streets or in a shelter for the homeless.

"The families living in the building agree to save at least 80 percent of their income during those two months so when they move out of the apartment they will have saved enough money to pay a deposit and the first and last months' rent on a place of their own."

The apartment building gives families a base from which to operate - they have an address to list on job applications, insurance forms, applications for assistance and other paperwork that could help them get back on their feet.

Anaheim 6th Ward Bishop Keith W. Allred said, "This project gives us a chance to help people who truly want to help themselves. This is not a dole.

"The Lord did not tell us to judge people and then to make our contributions. If they have problems in their life style that have led to their unfortunate situation, the Lord will deal with that at judgment day. To the needy, we ought to consider ourselves their brothers and sisters, not their judges."

Bishop Jay H. Bradford of the Anaheim 10th Ward expressed similar feelings. "We are mandated in the scriptures to have charity for our fellow man," he said. "It is not up to us to judge whether the people receiving help are worthy of that help. We do not even need to decide who will occupy the unit we have adopted. Another religious institution has taken on the responsibility of determining who will occupy the apartments.

"It has been great for churches in the city to pull together to tackle problems. It accomplishes a great deal to rally together as religious people and do good for our fellow man."

"The apartment is just a few miles from our ward in distance, yet the life-styles and situations of the people who live there are worlds apart from what our young people have been accustomed to seeing," said Bishop Allred. - Gerry Avant




A project that began a year ago with baked goods has grown into stake-sponsored dinners and other opportunities for Church members here.

Since January 1988, members of the various wards and branches in the New York New York Stake have been contributing their time, talents and resources to help the city's homeless.

The stake's interest in the homeless began when members of the Manhattan (New York) 2nd Ward started taking baked goods to a local women's shelter once a month. Gradually, members of other wards and branches became interested and involved.

"The stake sponsored a Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless in November, and a tremendous Christmas dinner in December," said Diana Murphy, who serves with her husband as stake public communications director. "The dinners were held at the Open Door Drop-In Center, a city-funded facility for homeless men and women.

But holiday dinners aren't all the stake does. Since July, stake members have been donating food and clothing to the center, as well as their time. Several times a month, stake volunteers visit the center to help prepare and serve meals, as well as spending time with the people there.

"It's really human contact that we offer," observed Sister Murphy. "We offer the people there a chance to talk, to be involved with others. We let them know we care." - Kellene Ricks



Organized Church groups are not the only Church influence being felt in the fight to help the homeless. Individual Church members are also getting involved by sharing their time, talents and resources.

Jay McClure, a Blazer B teacher in the Middletown (Conn.) Ward is an example.On Dec. 22, McClure, a chiropractor, performed X-rays, examinations, and consultations for his patients. Instead of charging his usual fee, McClure requested that his patients make payments in the form of canned foods, which he donated to a "rest and meals" shelter.

Seventy-six patients came that day, donating four vanloads of food. "Some came to the office solely to contribute food," McClure observed. "The biggest thing about this experience for me was seeing my patients catch the vision of giving. It was the best day I've ever had."

Ella Westley, a member of the Union 11th Ward in Salt Lake City, is another individual who has made a difference. Sister Westley's interest in the homeless began seven years ago when she drove by a group of homeless gathered around a small Coleman stove. She stopped and met Jennie Dudley, the owner of the stove and a Magna, Utah, resident who was trying singlehandedly to feed the homeless in the Salt Lake Valley. The two women joined forces and worked together for several years, encouraging local businesses and restaurants to donate day-old bread and other food that was normally discarded.

"A lot of the food just came from people who were driving by and stopped to see what was happening," explained Sister Westley. "The next week they would bring something they had made and wanted to contribute to the cause."

Through her work in feeding the homeless, Sister Westley eventually became involved with Salt Lake City's United Way, working as the office manager. She continues to be heavily involved in finding ways to help the homeless and educate others about their needs.

Another individual who is sharing his talents and interests with others is Steve Moore, a member of the Manhattan (New York) 1st Ward.

Moore, a professional artist, began helping the homeless when members of the New York Stake started volunteering at New York City's Open Door Drop-In Center. After helping to prepare and serve meals, Moore realized there was more that he could do. He obtained permission from officials at the center and began teaching a weekly art class.

"I think it's good for people to have something to do, something worthwhile and fulfilling that they can feel good about," Moore explained.