Reunion is joyous for welfare workers

A renewal of friendships and the sharing of warmhearted stories punctuated a Nov. 30 reunion luncheon for seven former Church Welfare workers with President Thomas S. Monson and Elder Glen L. Rudd.

President Monson, second counselor in the First Presidency and chairman of the Church Welfare Services Executive Committee, has welfare "roots" that trace back to his service as a young bishop on Salt Lake City's west side in the early 1950s. Elder Rudd, a former member of the Seventy and manager of Welfare Square for 25 years, was a neighboring bishop to then Bishop Monson. Elder Rudd this year notes his 50th year of work in the Church Welfare program.Both President Monson and Elder Rudd are well acquainted with the seven Welfare workers who gathered Nov. 30 at the Lion House in Salt Lake City. The men are former Church employees who traveled extensively with the General Authorities to conduct training at stake conferences throughout the Church in the early years of Church Welfare. Elder Rudd estimated there were a combined 120 years or more of traveling by the group, all focused on Church Welfare efforts.

The seven former Church Welfare workers included Arben O. Clark, storehouse supervisor and office manager; Lionel L. Drage, who helped manage finances and assisted with the Deseret Clothing Factory; Stewart B. Eccles, the "father" of Deseret Industries; Charles Knighton, who was in charge of the central storehouse; James E. Larson, a finance specialist who put out the annual Welfare statistical report; Irvin B. Nydegger, who traveled with President Marion G. Romney for 15 years giving welfare production assignments to various stakes; and William M. Walsh, who was in charge of the employment program, over the storehouses for a time and concluded his career working with the Church's transient assistance program at Welfare Square.

Following lunch and an hour of recalling shared experiences, President Monson spoke to the group for several minutes.

"It's a wonderful thing to be with men who have devoted their lives for a long period of time to Church service," he said. "We have all enjoyed serving the Lord and emphasizing the Welfare theme throughout the Church. It's a theme that is rather constant. If you look at the changing programs in the Church, you haven't seen much change in the basic principles of welfare: Members are encouraged to work for what they receive, to prepare for a rainy day, to help one another, to seek proper employment, to utilize the extended family as much as possible when help is needed."

After briefly reflecting on welfare principles and programs, President Monson mused about the "human touch" of welfare, "the manner in which you taught a whole generation of people about the Welfare program."

He then shared several experiences from his years as a bishop, with 86 widows in his ward, and from his early years of service as a General Authority. "We had many challenging and many wonderful things happen in that particular ward, as did Glen Rudd in his ward. We've had a choice association all through the years, he and I, and with each one of you.

"When you look back in retrospect, you remember those instances and people where welfare principles and programs lifted their lives, brought joy to their hearts and peace to their souls. And, therefore, all of you have had the opportunity to receive in your lives that sweet satisfaction, and I believe the plaudit of the Lord, `Well done, thou good and faithful servant. . . .'

"I don't remember any of you as old welfare workers, but as former full-time workers of welfare. You are all pioneers, as defined by Webster: `One who goes before, showing others the way to follow.' "

Explained Elder Rudd: "These men were part of the Welfare Department in the very beginning, when it was first the General Welfare office. They were the office staff who did the work day in and day out. I was chairman of the Bishops' Council in the Salt Lake Valley for about seven years, then was invited to become the manager of Welfare Square. I was there for 25 years, working with these men. I was at the square and they were all in the staff office uptown. We were good friends.

"Most of us were later called to the General Welfare Committee, and we were invited to go out and teach with the General Authorities. We've had wide experiences in the Welfare program, and we have also been able to meet with the General Authorities, to travel with them and to experience the people of the Church all over. All of these men have played an important part in Church Welfare and were the real pioneers in Welfare efforts. There are also many who have come since and have carried it on."

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