Russian members distribute bales of clothes and shoes among LDS, others

More than 16 tons of clothing and shoes arrived in St. Petersburg during August as part of the Church's humanitarian aid efforts that are continuing throughout the former Soviet Union, including Russia, the Ukraine and the Baltic States. The assistance is provided by the Church as a gift and is free of charge to recipients. The goods are being distributed to Church members as well as to those of other faiths.

Church members in St. Petersburg will spend the next few weeks distributing the goods to those in need. Before being shipped from Church headquarters the contents of every bale of clothing were labeled in Russian. The bales contained sweaters, hats, jackets, coats, gloves and other winter clothing in all sizes.With warehouse space in short supply, priesthood leaders from branches throughout St. Petersburg hoisted 100-pound bales up two flights of stairs to an apartment where the goods are being stored until they can be distributed. During a break from the work, they rested by singing Church hymns, including "I Am a Child of God."

According to St. Petersburg District Pres. Vyacheslav I. Efimov, the clothing and shoes will be distributed to the Church's 10 branches in St. Petersburg and the two branches in Vyborg. Members will receive goods based on their needs.

"In addition, our members will contact government authorities to locate individuals and families in need," Pres. Efimov said. "This will include the elderly, those with illness, and families with several children. Our members will take clothing and shoes directly to their homes.

"We will try to involve every member of the Church in these efforts. The missionaries will also participate."

Irene Maximova, St. Petersburg District Relief Society president, said: "These goods are greatly appreciated. Our people spend most of their income on food, which is becoming increasingly expensive. They cannot afford to buy warm clothing.

"Both members and non-members of the Church will be very pleased to have these. Our women can sew, and, if needed, will be able to remodel and tailor the clothing.

"We have received shipments twice before, but not in such quantities. I've seen our members wear the clothing. The goods have been a very practical source of help."

She added that shoes and boots are expensive and difficult to find in Russian stores. Children's shoes are especially in short supply.

Tatiana Akimova, gospel doctrine teacher in the St. Petersburg Nevsky Branch, sorted through the clothing and shoes. "We have members who are unemployed," she said. "They receive modest help from the government but it is not possible for them to buy warm clothing for winter. This will help them greatly."

Sister Akimova added: "Inflation is climbing almost every week, yet salaries have remained low. It is especially difficult for those with large families. Last year the exchange rate was 30 rubles to the dollar; today it is 1,100 to the dollar. Last year's winter coat for an adult cost 4,000 rubles; today it is more than 40,000 rubles - an increase of tenfold. This is more than a month's salary for a teacher or an engineer.

"We appreciate the support of Church members. When we receive these things, we truly feel that they are our brothers and sisters in the gospel.

It also inspires us to do more to reach out to others, both members and non-members."

Russia St. Petersburg Mission Pres. Thomas F. Rogers said: "It has been a thrill to witness how our district leaders, and branch and Relief Society presidents have so eagerly and unstintingly taken upon themselves the task of distributing this clothing to the needy both in the Church and throughout this city of nearly 5 million.

"The social problems here are so grievous - alcoholism, narcotics and crime. Most of the people, nevertheless, are kind and wholesome."

The clothing and shoes sent to St. Petersburg are part of the Church's on-going efforts to provide assistance to those in need, according to Isaac C. Ferguson, director of International Welfare and Humanitarian Service.

"For several years the Church has had a Deseret Industries sort center that collects surplus clothing from all its stores. Virtually all clothing is used for charitable purposes," he said.

In 1992, 6 million pounds of goods were sent by the Church to 55 countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

"We work with dozens of private organizations doing relief and development work throughout the world," Brother Ferguson said. "The Church provides this as a charitable contribution. In 1993, the Church will again contribute 6 to 7 million pounds of clothing and shoes.

"The Church also provides medical equipment and supplies, as well as educational materials. Books may be for elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels, including general education textbooks and specialized library materials. Most of our books have gone to Eastern Europe and Africa. Food is provided on a selected basis. It is shipped from the Church storehouses to countries throughout the world."

Members contribute to humanitarian efforts through two main channels: donating used clothing to Deseret Industries and making monetary contributions.

Regarding monetary contributions to humanitarian service, a letter from the First Presidency was read to members in sacrament meetings in December 1991: "Those desiring to assist can write Humanitarian Service' on theother' line of the standard donation slip, enter in the desired amount, and give the slip and their contribution to their bishop or branch president who will immediately forward it to the Church. They may also elect to send such contributions directly to Humanitarian Service at Church headquarters."

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