News Story

Charitable Projects Bubble Up From Grassroots

In addition to the humanitarian and charitable efforts initiated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world, individual Mormons, independent of Church programs, are also identifying needs and organizing projects to provide relief.

Many of these efforts are aimed at assisting those who are in need locally, but others focus on national or even international objectives

“Latter-day Saints should serve the people in their own communities as well as those in distant lands,” according to Sharon Eubank, a representative of Welfare Services of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Speaking last week at a conference hosted by the International Society on the campus of Brigham Young University, Eubank explained how every town and city around the world has a need for volunteers willing to make a difference in the lives of those in need.

“Though local needs appear right before our eyes, they are sometimes the hardest to see,” Eubank said. “For example, one can fly around the world to help alleviate poverty as well as simply drive down the street.”

Robert Nelson, a 17-year-old Mormon from Seattle, is a case in point. As reported by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer recently, Nelson identified a local need, created a plan and carried it out. For his innovative service project he raised money by cleaning windows so he could buy supplies for a community rest-stop facility for the homeless.

“Rob did a great job,” said Troy Torgeson, his Mormon bishop in Bothell, Washington. “He headed up the whole project himself. It was appealing to him because he could help the homeless in our area.” 

According to Torgeson, other young members of his Mormon ward (congregation) make it a habit of getting involved in community service efforts. “On the same day that Rob was serving the homeless,” says Torgeson, “the Cub Scouts were out doing a food drive for Hopelink.”

Moving beyond his own community, 16-year-old Christian McOmber, another young Seattle Mormon, traveled with his mother to Washington, D.C., last week to speak at a congressional conference on autism. His younger brother, Gregory, was diagnosed with severe autism as a baby, and Christian is now an advocate for those affected by the condition and their families.

Another speaker at the International Society conference last week, Dr. Warner Woodworth, BYU professor of organizational behavior, explained the value of small, grassroots initiatives that grow into more sophisticated humanitarian efforts that make an impact in diverse ways and locations.

He emphasized the importance of initiating one’s own service and “not solely relying on official programs of the government, United Nations and other big organizations to do it. Some of these efforts take the form of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] that work with existing social enterprises.”

For example, Caleb Manscill, a BYU student from Orem, Utah, spends some of his spare time volunteering on the board of a student organization called Next Deseret. According to BYU NewsNet, “The venture works with Deseret International [a humanitarian NGO] by creating a low-cost surgery model that will build surgical centers in the developing world and help medical doctors earn ownership of those centers.”

Woodworth says that these kinds of noninstitutional acts of service arise out of the good will of individuals. And they mostly involve the arduous work of fighting poverty.

“Perhaps the main purpose driving this service is to foster sustainable strategies to empower the poor and provide them the means to be self-sufficient.”

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