News Release

Latter-day Saints Around the World: Country Newsroom Websites, November 19, 2021

Featuring service provided in the United States, Australia and Fiji

Newsroom features stories from its dozens of websites around the world to show what members and leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are doing to serve their communities. Today, we feature news from the United States, Australia and Fiji.

United States: Black 14 and the Church of Jesus Christ Provide Food for California Food Pantry

A steady stream of nearly 200 cars drove through the RSM Cares Food Pantry drive-up distribution system in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, on November 3. Recipients were given canned goods, frozen chicken, produce, laundry detergent and pet food. A team of volunteers worked continuously to fill grocery bags and boxes with items to keep pace with the arrival of patrons.

The RSM Cares Food Pantry is a faith-based community organization that serves people from many cities in Orange County. Twice a month, nearly 12,000 pounds of food are distributed, and “the need has been [increasing],” said Chris O’Connor, founder and executive director of RSM Cares Food Pantry.

The rise in demand recently sparked a large donation from the Black 14 Philanthropy in conjunction with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At the request of Mel Hamilton, founder of the Black 14, 24 pallets of food items totaling more than 40,000 pounds were donated to the pantry. The pallets contained beans, pancake mix, syrup, macaroni and other essential foods.

The combined effort to provide food to those in need has become the hallmark of friendship between the Black 14 and the Church of Jesus Christ in recent years. The two worked together last year to deliver food in nine cities across the country. Jeff Shields, who has served at RSM Cares Food Pantry for over eight years and who coordinated the donation with the Church, said serving the poor and needy is “a common denominator” to help build bridges.

Hamilton added, “I think the donation gives me encouragement about the world and us and sharing our love for the world together. I think that is what the donation means to me. It highlights the love for one another.”

Elder Mark Mortensen, a regional leader for the Church of Jesus Christ, said, “We love to be associated with any organization that blesses the lives of our brothers and sisters. In an age where there is so much division and contention, it is wonderful to be united in an effort to bless individuals and families in this community.”

Local resident, Amanda, and her daughter, Zoe, have been blessed by the pantry's food items since the pandemic began. “With everyone in my household being home, we were having to stretch out our expenses and cover things that we weren’t expecting, so being able to come to the food pantry really allowed us to have full, regular meals. It became a necessity in that it helped us survive [and] to live healthily,” she said.

Lanterns are lit and placed on the water during the Thai Buddhist temple celebration in Layton, Utah, October 2021.2021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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United States: Latter-day Saint Neighbors Help Repair Buddhist Temple in Utah

On October 24, Arunee Schwab, board chair of the Wat Dhammagunaram Thai Buddhist temple in Layton, Utah, presented certificates of appreciation to several local leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ who helped construct an outdoor stage central to their cultural celebrations.

Several months earlier, members of the Farmington Utah Oakridge Stake (a group of congregations) became aware that the large outdoor stage at the Buddhist temple had fallen into disrepair and marked it as a project to be done on the annual day of service commemorated in the United States on September 11. A local construction company designed the plans and a group of 10 skilled craftsmen volunteered to construct the stage. Building materials were delivered and construction began on the morning of September 11.

In addition to volunteering manpower and supplies, project organizers gathered private and church member contributions, keeping the cost to a minimum for their Buddhist friends.

Once completed, a “robing ceremony” was held on the new stage during which the certificates of appreciation from the National Office of Buddhism in Thailand and the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Los Angeles were presented to local Latter-day Saint leaders and other volunteers. “Our friendship with the [Wat Dhammagunaram] Thai Buddhist temple has been developed over the past several years,” said organizer Quin Pinson. “Through the many projects, interactions and worshipping together, they opened up and a family bond was forged. [We] communicate, almost on a daily basis, with Board Chair Arunee Schwab.”

United States: Church Members in Colorado Help Sustain Blood Bank during Pandemic

On November 11, Vitalant, America’s largest independent nonprofit blood services provider, presented awards to show their appreciation to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for organizing lifesaving blood drives during the pandemic.

Blood collected in Colorado typically accounts for nearly 60% of what Vitalant receives every day. This year in Colorado, more than 500 blood drives have been canceled — a loss of some 13,000 units of blood. Katie Moon and others in the Latter-day Saint community helped reduce the deficit by organizing and hosting 41 blood drives throughout the state. The yield was 1,300 participants who donated 1,704 units of blood.

Elder Frederick K. Balli Jr., an area Church leader, received the award on behalf of the Church at the Lowry donation center in Denver. The event included a tour of the facility led by Anne Burtchaell, Vitalant’s mountain division vice president.

“We are so thrilled and amazed at the partnership that we’ve generated,” she said. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has stepped up in a big way.”

Australia: Latter-day Saint Youth Care for Forgotten Graves

In early October, 180 teenagers from the Brisbane Australia Centenary Stake (a group of congregations) of the Church of Jesus Christ performed a year’s worth of work in a few hours. They cared for graves in the South Brisbane Cemetery that no longer have families watching over them. The youth cleared overgrowth and cleaned and photographed the gravestones for BillionGraves.

The Australia Newsroom says this volunteer effort was the largest the cemetery had seen.

Amongst those that were assisted with food kits were members of a school cricket team and its supporters that were unable to return home due to the Covid-19 lockdown. Fiji, October 20212021 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Pacific: Rural Areas Receive Food from Latter-day Saint Charities

Latter-day Saint Charities, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, donated funds to Save the Children Fiji and the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). The donations supported existing efforts to deliver food to rural residents who cannot get produce due to closed borders.

In an interview with Pacific Newsroom, Shairana Ali, the chief executive officer of Save the Children Fiji, said, “There are families who will need support for several more months before they are able to recover from the COVID crisis. Therefore, the support from Latter-day Saint Charities is vital.”

Latter-day Saint Charities will continue to work with both organizations to identify ways to help meet long-term needs in the area.

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