Local Church welfare projects, including farms, continue to provide commodities for the needy while giving members opportunities to work and serve.
In addition, production efforts directed by local priesthood leaders also provide work opportunities for welfare recipients and strengthen families and quorums through their service, according to Dennis R. Lifferth, director of production distribution for Welfare Services.The Church has 97 welfare farms operated under the direction of agent stakes, along with other processing facilities, said Brother Lifferth in a Church News interview. These provide not only food, but also goods used for the sacred work of caring for the poor and needy within and without the Church.
The General Welfare Committee of the Church has underscored the purposes of Church farms and their positive impacts in the lives of members. Interviews with priesthood and Relief Society leaders, youth and others concerning their perceptions of welfare projects and their feelings about participation in them highlighted the importance of the projects.
"The number of positive comments that came back was tremendous," said Brother Lifferth. "There is an overwhelming appreciation for the farms and other facilities and for the opportunities to work there. Members considered them to be a blessing and not a burden.
"It is very important to note that the same opportunities can be afforded members in stakes without farms or other production facilities, which is the vast majority of stakes within the Church. They can participate in the same kinds of blessings by having local priesthood-directed welfare projects of many kinds within their stakes. There are opportunities to assist the poor and needy in beautifying their homes and in other ways anywhere we live."
Brother Lifferth shared several of the comments from the interviews - which had been collected anonymously to encourage candor - with the Church News. "Welfare efforts of any kind are ways of taking gospel principles learned on Sundays and applying them to bless and strengthen lives," he said. "The people who recently responded to the questions mentioned many of these important principles."
Sacrifice: "We have increased the size of our farm, but we don't need more equipment, at least for now. We are asking our members and non-members to bring their tractors. Sacrifice brings forth blessings and
a feeling ofT ownership. People want to help, and we need them." - stake president
Activation: "There are a lot of people who don't want to get involved in going to Church on Sunday, but they will go out there and help and feel good about it and get closer to the members, and pretty soon they are feeling good in Church." - stake president
Work: "Our bishops and stake president encourage us to come as a family to thin and hoe. Sometimes the children massacre those beets, but they are there working and doing and learning to work. . . . When we are on that farm, it's sacred ground - and we do our best." - Relief Society president
Teaching service: "At first, when I was about 11 or 12, I'd have to come home from a sleepover party because I would have to go work at the welfare farm. I felt like, `Oh, that's so selfish, not letting me have my fun.' But now I feel it is selfish not to go. I look at it as a kind of missionary work. It goes to needy families. When you look at it like that, it just makes you feel a lot better." - Aaronic Priesthood teacher-age young man
Receiving assistance: "We had fallen into bad times financially. My good bishop counseled us to use some commodities, and I was a little stubborn about that. I remember him saying, `Well, are you too proud to eat at the Lord's table?' When I go to the Church farm, I go knowing the needs of other people. . . . I look at going to the Church farm like going to the temple. You are doing something for somebody that they can't do for themselves." - welfare recipient
Brother's keeper: "I've worked on welfare projects since 1936, and I think it's a great program. People come and work unitedly together for about three hours, and we load up a great big semitrailer full of grapefruit, of the choicest that we have, and send it to the welfare program. We realize that we are still our brother's keeper, and that we ought to be actively engaged in a good cause." - 80-year-old volunteer worker
Brother Lifferth concluded: "Only a relatively few stakes have the opportunity to have an assignment to help manage a welfare farm, but there are other options. Stakes can call in, and if they would like an assignment at one of the farms or ranches, we would be happy to give them an assignment. They can take their youth down and spend a day fixing fences, or they can receive an assignment to work producing boxes or food for humanitarian purposes or an assignment in a cannery. So there are many other opportunities available for stakes who may not have an assignment on a farm."
He added that every stake can be involved in a welfare project with their youth, and in behalf of the widows and needy in their stakes and wards and find some productive way to help bless the lives of others.
"That is the essence of welfare in the Church," he said. "It is the essence of the gospel in action."