From the cotton factory of the past, to the peach and apricot orchards of the present, the southwestern corner of Utah has long been involved in the production of welfare goods.
Over the years, a storehouse, cannery and grain storage were added to the welfare system.Yet, said Bishop Keith B. McMullin, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, there remained a void in the ability of members of the Church in the Richfield, Cedar City and St. George areas to adequately address the physical and emotional circumstances of people in need.
To fill that void, the Church recently constructed a 55,000-square-foot complex that houses the Desert Industries, LDS Employment and LDS Social Services in one location in St. George.
Bishop McMullin, a native of Leeds, 15 miles north of St. George, returned to the area of his roots June 12 to dedicate the St. George Region Welfare Complex.
This complex comes at the encouragement of local priesthood leaders who first requested such facilities 20 years ago, said Kent Thurgood, unit manager of the complex.
"We've had wonderful community support," he said, relating how more than 650 cars filled the parking lot and lined the street when the Desert Industries opened April 13.
During the dedication services, Bishop McMullin emphasized how the Lord "gives us reserves to have sufficient for our needs, and typically, provides enough to help others, which may come in the form of money, or goods, or personal service or saying a prayer."
He related a recent incident where Church members in western Europe gathered commodities and shipped them to those suffering from the conflict in Croatia and Bosnia in former Yugoslavia. The members boxed the commodities and then, remembering the children, included 59 teddy bears.
A member couple in Croatia verified the number of teddy bears when the shipment arrived. When the food distribution began at a local refugee center, they counted 61 children and feared that some would be disappointed.
They considered going to town to purchase several extra teddy bears, but then felt they should move ahead as they were.
As they handed out the boxes of food and teddy bears, they found that there was a teddy bear for each child.
"The Lord watches over his children and knows where they are and what they need," Bishop McMullin said. "He who multiplied the loaves and fishes watches over all of Heavenly Father's children, even if the need is for the warmth of a teddy bear.