The rich legacy of Relief Society - that of service, compassion and of strengthening one another - continues today more than 15 decades after the organization's founding.

"The history of Relief Society from 1842 provides the foundation and substance for our greatly expanded organization of today," Relief Society Gen. Pres. Elaine L. Jack told the Church News concerning the 153rd anniversary of Relief Society. "The original purposes of Relief Society - `to seek out the poor and needy and to help save souls' (Relief Society Handbook, p. 2) - remain in place."We continue to meet together to draw strength from each other and to develop and exercise charity. Our commemoration of the founding of Relief Society reminds us of our rich legacy."

This legacy began March 17, 1842, when the Prophet Joseph Smith founded the Female Relief Society in Nauvoo, Ill. From this organization stemmed the present-day Relief Society with some 3.7 million members worldwide.

This year, as in years past, local Relief Societies throughout the Church gathered to commemorate the anniversary of Relief Society. They celebrated in various ways, many of which included acts of charity.

One such example of service came from members of the Relief Society of the Waterville Ward, Bangor Maine Stake. They chose as their anniversary theme "1,000 Acts of Charity." During the weeks before their local celebration on March 15, the Relief Society sisters performed various acts of service to others and then recorded the service projects anonymously on index cards.

On the evening of the commemoration, they shared their acts of service with each other by lacing the cards on ribbon and stringing them across the meetinghouse cultural hall.

According to a greeting card sent to the Relief Society general presidency from the Waterville Ward Relief Society, the ribbon of cards signified "the stretching of our hearts."

"We feel this project has helped us to be more aware of service and compassion, and turned our attention more toward the Savior. It has been one way of honoring President

Howard W.T Hunter's counsel to strive to be more like Jesus Christ."

In a telephone interview with the Church News, Carole Goodwin, Waterville Ward Relief Society president, explained that the reason the ward chose service projects to commemorate the Relief Society anniversary is because "the Relief Society motto is `Charity Never Faileth.' We wanted to do a service project.

"Our bishop told us during ward conference that we should sink our spiritual roots deeper. We thought we could do it through service.

"The sisters were really involved," Sister Goodwin continued. "We felt it drew our Relief Society closer together."

The "1,000 Acts of Charity" included such things as helping an ill expectant mother with her children and delivering food, and giving rides to those without transportation.

One card read, "I smiled at everyone at the grocery store."

The Waterville Relief Society sent its string of cards to the general presidency, along with the greeting card.