Relief Society: Women ready to enter new realm of dedication, service

"Relief Society is only on the threshold of its divine mission."

That statement, uttered by Belle S. Spafford in 1966 while she served as Relief Society general president, has been a motivating concept through the years according to Elaine L. Jack, current Relief Society general president.Following a year of service as part of the 1992 Relief Society Sesquicentennial, Latter-day Saint women are ready to step over that threshold into a new realm of dedication and service, Pres. Jack said in a Church News interview.

"There are special needs in today's world, and the women of the Relief Society are in a good position to successfully meet those needs," she remarked. "During this past year we have rediscovered the great strength we have as women in the Church. Guided by the light of the gospel and by inspired priesthood leaders we are ready to move on.

Pres. Jack continued: "To remember the sesquicentennial is to rejoice in a year of fruitful celebration. Women everywhere have responded to the focus on service and sisterhood, and as a result have been strengthened in their resolve to live the gospel more fully. We have felt an outpouring of love and feelings of unity from letters, reports and histories from all over the world."

While women in the Accra Ghana Stake worked at cleaning up the community around them, their sisters in the River 5th Ward, West Jordan Utah River Stake, worked with the West Jordan Middle School PTA to assemble emergency kits for use at the school in case of an emergency or natural disaster.

Featured below are highlights of a handful of the reports from areas throughout the world. Whether activities were involved or simple, they seemed to unite and strengthen women throughout the Church.


In the Upolu Samoa West Stake, women from the stake's 10 units repainted and cleaned up three government hospitals that had been hit by a cyclone that ravaged the area last December.

With priesthood support utilizing their skills as carpenters, plumbers, electricians and painters, members spent three days repairing, repainting, cleaning, gardening and planting flowers to refurbish the Falelatai, Mulifanua and Leulumoega hospitals.


Members of the Relief Society of the Lakeview Ward, Roy Utah Central Stake, decided to volunteer at the Davis County Jail for their service project. Their greatest effort at the jail was tutoring inmates once a week for seven months to help them get their General Education Development certificates (equivalent to high school graduation).

Through their efforts, 15 students graduated in a ceremony at the jail on Oct. 22. Jail officials said that number is the highest percentage of inmates to ever pass at one time.

"The project has created some monumental moments both in the lives of the Relief Society sisters and those they have served," said Mary Ellen Smoot, ward Relief Society president.


The Relief Society of the Cergy-Pontoise Ward, Paris France Stake, spent time together collecting used clothes for the needy and making patchwork quilts for rest homes and a retirement center.


Giving extra care to nursing home patients, women in the Kilauea 2nd Ward, Hilo Hawaii Stake, made lap robes, gave facials and manicures and helped fold clothes and straighten shelves for their service project.


Women in the Landstuhl Servicemen Ward, Kaiserslautern Germany Servicemen Stake, worked on several projects during the year to help utilize the talents of each sister.

One project included making "It's Me!" dolls for the pediatric ward at the military hospital for each patient to have. Patients drew a face and hair on the doll to make what they felt looked like them. Then anything that happens to the child during hospitalization happens first to the doll, whether it be stitches or a cast.

"We feel that each project has been an incredible success, and as leaders we are very proud of all of our sisters who sacrificed and worked so hard," said Loralee Kurzius, ward Relief Society secretary. "We hope to incorporate these projects into a regular part of our Relief Society, that we might continue to grow and to exemplify that pure love of Christ which is charity."


Women in the Manchester South Ward, Manchester England Stake, picked up litter along a brook in the area, knitted, crocheted or sewed clothes for premature babies in a local hospital unit, and prepared Christmas dinner for the residents of a local home for the elderly.

All projects gave the women an opportunity to do something for those in the community, the ward presidency reported.


Providing a packet of toiletries and necessary items for women at a rape and abuse center gave women in the Grand Forks 2nd Ward, Fargo North Dakota Stake, an opportunity to serve in their community during the sesquicentennial.

Because the project was so successful, stake Relief Society leaders decided to do a similar project on a stake basis this year. They plan to sew 200 clutches (cloth packets) and fill them with donated articles from local merchants, including a toy and other necessary items for children coming to the center.


Women in the Santa Ana 3rd Ward, Santa Ana California Stake, served at a children's home for their community service project.

The Relief Society received special permission from the home to visit in the evenings and help with the children who are wards of the court. Service included feeding and rocking babies, reading to toddlers and playing with older children in sports activities and/or arts and crafts.

"No other service project has been more rewarding than this one," said Tish Whitney, a Relief Society teacher in the ward. "It was truly a hands-on project. The sisters are experiencing the rewards of an extended type of mothering, a service which is needed worldwide."


With a desire to increase awareness about health care, Relief Society sisters in two wards in the Marikina Philippines Stake held separate activities in the community to emphasize the importance of healthful living.

The Marikina 1st Ward held a free clinic and provided immunizations as part of a project that will be ongoing with follow-up shots of immunizations. Doctors and nurses volunteered their services.

Women in the Quirino 2nd Ward held a health fair for the community, teaching skills in self-reliance, health care, nutrition and immunization.


A desire to help children and women in the community resulted in a service project for the Marshallton 2nd Ward Relief Society, Philadelphia Pennsylvania Stake.

The women refurbished and redecorated the children's room at the Crime Victims Center, including reupholstering, quilting a wall hanging, painting, and providing some new books, toys and puppets. Relief Society leaders said the skills learned and the fellowship gained among sisters were bonuses above and beyond service to the community.


The Canyon Estates Ward Relief Society, Bountiful Utah North Canyon Stake, adopted a family to help in fixing up their home.

Focusing on the kitchen and living room, the women helped the family refinish wood floors, clean, paint, wallpaper and redecorate the two rooms.

While some women donated labor and materials or money, others signed up to baby-sit so other Relief Society sisters with small children could participate in the project. Some sisters volunteered to bring meals into the family for the few days while the kitchen was under repair.

"The enthusiasm was tremendous," said Carol A. Coles, service project chairman. "Sisters were opening their hearts and giving of themselves in a way that touched us all."


The Waveland Ward Relief Society, Gulfport Mississippi Stake, warmed legs and hearts alike when sisters made and donated 61 colorful lap quilts for a nursing home in Pass Christian. Each resident of the home received a quilt.


Samsui women - women who came to Singapore from China 50 to 60 years ago - received a boost from the Singapore Branch Relief Society, Singapore District in a service project. Relief Society sisters in the branch made clothing and donated food to the women, who are typically single, frail and jobless. They also invited them to a luncheon.

"By seeking to perform our duty to relieve the distressed, our capacity for service has increased, and we are all astonished at what we can accomplish," the branch Relief Society presidency reported. "This is only the beginning in our efforts to live up to the motto of Relief Society, `Charity Never Faileth.' "


Serving homeless youth at a Salvation Army emergency and support services facility has "created renewed enthusiasm and commitment for compassionate service" in the Clinton Park Ward, Portland Oregon Stake, said Claudia Anderson, ward homemaking counselor.

In fact, the service at the facility - which is geared toward helping the youth get off the streets and into mainstream society - has become a ward project that will continue into 1993.

The task includes preparing and delivering an evening meal once a month to feed 100 to 125 youth, providing a cleaning crew to do thorough cleaning once every three months and holding training sessions for volunteers interested in interacting with youth.


The Windhoek Branch Relief Society in the South Africa Cape Town Mission gave mini-lessons and served a meal to women who are surrogate mothers to children living in a community center.

The "mothers" care for the needs of eight children in a setting that is as near a traditional home as possible.

Relief Society sisters gave lessons on topics such as dealing with problems, good health habits, prayer and safeguarding children. They also presented the women with booklets about the topics.

"We feel such activities as individual service projects have a great tendency to not only strengthen relationships within each ward or branch of the Relief Society, but also give us a great feeling of unity and togetherness with our Relief Society sisters all over the world," said Maureen Britz, branch Relief Society president.


The Goshen Ward Relief Society in the Firth Idaho Stake cleaned three miles of road and transplanted trees and shrubs outside the ward meetinghouse as part of its service project.

"The service projects we completed were good and worthwhile but the most worthwhile accomplishment was the feeling of sisterhood that was felt by the sisters in our ward," said Chris Hobbs, sesquicentennial chairman for the ward. "As we united together to accomplish a common goal, the true spirit of Relief Society surfaced and we felt love and respect for one another."


Relief Society sisters in the Winnipeg Manitoba Stake spent the past year serving the noon meal at one of two Winnipeg soup kitchens.

One branch served in the community soup kitchen and worked with Meals on Wheels while members from other wards volunteered at hospitals, made layettes for an unwed mothers home, made lap quilts for children in wheelchairs, or put on concerts at rest homes.

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