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Missionary couples assisted with food distribution in Armenia recently as part of a private relief effort that is helping feed more than 200,000 people.

Pasta, beans, rice, oil, wheat, flour and sugar were donated by the Jon M. Huntsman family to provide emergency help to people in ravaged Armenia. Brother Huntsman, a member of the Church in Salt Lake City, serves as chairman and chief executive officer of The Huntsman Group.The assistance is part of a long-term effort by the Huntsman family to provide opportunities for the Armenian people to help themselves, in keeping with Church welfare principles.

In 1989-90, the Huntsmans constructed a concrete plant in Yerevan to help provide housing for the 500,000 people left homeless following a severe earthquake in 1988. The plant is managed by Church member David Horne and provides employment opportunities for Armenian citizens, allowing them to help their own people. Since the earthquake, the Armenian people have continued to suffer due to lack of shelter, food, water, fuel and electricity, according to Peter R. Huntsman of the Memorial Park Ward, Houston Texas East Stake, who directed the recent relief effort.

"The Armenian people are continuing their suffering from an ongoing blockade that has been imposed by neighboring countries," explained Brother Huntsman, who is chairman and chief operating officer of Huntsman Corp. "The average pensioner there earns between 90 cents and a dollar per month. They are in dire economic and social circumstances."

He said negotiations to obtain and ship the food started 18 months ago. "We found the people we worked with to arrange the shipment were very up front," he noted. "We rarely worked with a signed contract. Everything they said they would do, they did."

Some 150 truckloads of food - packaged in 50,000 cases of about 25 pounds each - were accompanied by an escort across the Armenian border from Iran and stored in the concrete plant in

Yerevan. It was then distributed to

orphanages, hospitals, schools, veterans groups, homes for the elderly, assistance groups and others throughout the country.

The food has been distributed over the past six weeks and will help feed the people for the next two months or so, until the first harvest is gathered, Brother Huntsman said.