LDS youth rescue a charity in distress

After an employee, upset with layoffs, destroyed all the records of volunteers for the door-to-door fund-raising campaign of the Calgary Alberta regional office of the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA), Janine Petryliak decided there was only one group that could help her: members of the LDS Church.

"I knew that if there was anyone who could save us, it would be the Mormons!" said the director of fund development and voluntarism for the CDA in Alberta.Her prior associations with the Church only consisted of a couple of visits to Temple Square in Salt Lake City, but while there, she was touched by what the "young people" from the Church had to say. In addition, she was impressed by local service projects she observed in Salt Lake City.

She had to quickly organize 3,000 volunteers to cover the region, which included many rural communities surrounding Calgary. After a call to Bishop Ralph Gehmlich of the ward in Okotoks, a small community south of Calgary, she was excited about how quickly the Church was able to assemble volunteers.

"I told him that I needed 40 people, and he said, `Sure, we can get 40 youth together,' " the director related.

After this response, she continued calling other wards and branches, and in very little time had the entire rural area covered by LDS youth and a few Relief Society members.

Her impression of LDS youth was reinforced even more, especially by Tauni Schmirler, a young woman in Okotoks who decided to personally organize the effort in her community. The director said the CDA could save countless hours and dollars if all their volunteers followed Tauni's example.

The money raised by the youth will go to aid currently diagnosed diabetics as well as help fund research on the disease. Diabetes afflicts 1 million Canadians. In addition, one-twentieth of Canadians will develop diabetes sometime during their lives. Figures for the United States are similar.

To show its gratitude to the youth and their leaders, the CDA is holding a party for each participating ward and branch. The director and her assistants plan to attend each party, which means hundreds of miles of travel.

"Charitable organizations need to get away from the mindset of using older people to volunteer," she explained, stressing that if the causes are to be significant in future years, younger people need to be involved today.

She said she is impressed "and refreshed to see such nice young women and men. It's nice to be in a room together with happy young people having a good time."

"If it were not for the LDS youth, we wouldn't be having a canvass in southern Alberta."

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