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Deseret Industries: Old goods, new opportunities

Will provide training, rehabilitation, help hundreds find employment

TOOELE, Utah — A new Deseret Industries Thrift Store and Employment Resource Center here will further the Church's efforts in "reaching out to those who need it so desperately in our communities," said Presiding Bishop H. David Burton March 5.

Offering brief remarks prior to dedicating the 35,000 square-foot facility, Bishop Burton talked about the role of the 46 Deseret Industries operated by the Church in Utah, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, California, Washington and Oregon.

"Deseret Industries is a pillar — one of several pillars of Church Welfare endeavors — reaching out to those who are least able in our community to have the necessities of life and ability to sustain themselves," he said.

The new store, located at 1575 North 30 West in Tooele, is part and parcel to what takes place on a grand scale throughout many Western communities, he added.

Deseret Industries originated toward the end of the Depression in August 1938, in an "effort to provide opportunities for individuals to become self-sustaining."

A letter from the First Presidency was read Aug. 14, 1938, in sacrament meetings throughout the Salt Lake Region, calling for contributions of "clothing, papers, magazines, articles of furniture, electrical fixtures, metal and glassware." The store would then employ men and women to sort, process, and repair the articles collected for sale and distribution among those who desire to obtain usable articles at a minimum cost, according to the letter.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Deseret Industries stores also began to emphasize rehabilitation, helping to train people with disabilities and others in need of vocational skills.

Bishop Burton said from those humble beginnings, 65 years ago, the Deseret Industries now generates $60 million in revenue annually to bless lives.

"That is a substantial contribution. . . ," he said. "The real measure of what we do, in my opinion, rests with how many people can come in that front door, receive the training that they need, and go out that front door into the world to be successful."

During any given week, about 2,700 trainees — 30 percent of whom are members of other churches — are enrolled at all Deseret Industries facilities combined, participating in language and technical classes, college courses and internships. At the new Tooele store, an estimated 100 people will be trained each year. An estimated 75 to 100 more will find jobs each month through the Employment Resource Center, said Tim Sloan, director of Church Employment Resource Services.

The new building features a 14,000 square-foot sales floor, the 1,800 square-foot Employment Resource Center, and a full-time staff of five, plus 45 trainees.

Offering brief remarks during the dedication service, Tooele County Commissioner Gene White called the store a great addition to the community, noting that the county has the state's highest unemployment rate — 9 percent.

"This facility and the things that go on here are the type of things that will help," he said. "I hope the community will remember this place and support it and participate with it."

Church members from the seven stakes in Tooele will volunteer at the new store and employment center.

"Unless you get involved, you don't truly comprehend what the true mission of this place is," said Brent Rose, agent stake president for the new store. "It is like anything else in the Church. You don't really appreciate it until you understand what goes on."