Terry Ludwig says he's a member of a "sowing team" — a group of Welfare Square service missionaries whose efforts today pay dividends tomorrow, next month or maybe next year.
"We consider ourselves sowers rather than reapers," said Brother Ludwig, who helps put together humanitarian kits shipped to areas victimized by poverty or disaster. "We never see the people that these kits go to. We don't see the results of our work, but someone in the future will reap the benefits of what we are sowing now."
Indeed, Brother Ludwig's effort is emblematic of the vital, Christian work happening daily at Welfare Square. The recently dedicated square is empowered with state-of-the-art processing facilities — and fueled by a spirit of caring and love. The fruits of "pure religion." (See James 1:27.)
The Welfare Square facilities on Salt Lake City's west side have been updated to meet the ever-growing needs of a fast-growing Church and world. Yet the mission that prompted the building of the first Welfare Square campus in 1938 remains: Empower people to help themselves and others.
Each year, thousands of volunteers and welfare recipients work shoulder to shoulder baking bread, processing cheese, bottling milk or fulfilling one of the many other Welfare Square duties. Their efforts form "a melting pot that is so important in the process of helping one another," said Bishop H. David Burton, the Presiding Bishop.
Welfare Square has emerged as a powerful center of service since its humble beginnings in the midst of the Great Depression. The original 10-acre square now stretches across 13 acres to make room for a new cannery, milk-processing plant, bakery and other remaining buildings. The updated square was dedicated Aug. 5, 2001. (Please see Church News, Aug. 8.)
Although the square features state-of-the-art facilities, Church leaders say it is the scores of people working inside those facilities that define Welfare Square. Outside of a small staff of supervisors, the day-to-day tasks of canning, bottling and sorting falls upon volunteers from nearby wards and stakes. These volunteers are people such as Brother Ludwig, a retired state tax commission employee now serving an 18-month service mission in an area devoted to humanitarian service in the Deseret Industries on Welfare Square.
"I enjoy [the work], it's almost like coming to Church every day," says Brother Ludwig as he sorts through a stack of donated airplane seat covers that will be turned into school supply bags. "I didn't think retirement was all that terrific. This beats sitting home waiting for the mailman every day."
Often it is the sufferers who find hope inside the walls of Welfare Square. When a local bishop offers food or other commodities to someone in need, the recipient is often encouraged to offer service-work at Welfare Square or other Church-owned welfare farms and facilities. Individuals can then retain their dignity by earning what they receive.
Many also find full-time employment or schooling opportunities via the Church's employment resource centers. In just the first half of 2001, Welfare Square placed 6,805 people in employment, education or training.
"Welfare Square is a place where givers and receivers come together," Bishop Burton said. "Givers are blessed because of the feelings they receive as they bless lives. Receivers are blessed because they receive the sustenance they need to become self-reliant."
Elder Glen L. Rudd, a former member of the Seventy who managed Welfare Square for a quarter-century, admits he still puts his hand across his heart whenever he passes the 178-foot grain elevator that seems to guard the square. The elevator has witnessed a divine work that continues to bless thousands today.