Impossible dream becoming reality

Enterprise Mentors helps families work their way out of poverty

With strains of "The Impossible Dream" and "You'll Never Walk Alone," the Mormon Tabernacle Choir on Nov. 7 helped Enterprise Mentors International celebrate its objective of eradicating world poverty by offering "a hand up, not a handout."

The choir was the featured entertainment at Mentors' annual fundraising gala and dinner at Salt Lake City's Grand America Hotel, where Laura Bush, wife of U.S. President George W. Bush, received the charitable organization's International Humanitarian Award via video telecast. Also, Elder Marion D. Hanks, General Authority emeritus and a co-founder of Mentors, was honored with the organization's Distinguished Service Award.

Enterprise Mentors is the brainchild of Menlo F. Smith, a businessman from St. Louis, Mo., who in the mid-1980s served as president of the Philippines Baguio Mission. There, his eyes were opened to the plight of the poor, struggling to make ends meet with small, home-based businesses, often while at the mercy of loan sharks who charged up to 300 percent interest.

Returning home, he joined with other Church members who had been successful in business to form Mentors, which today works with seven partner organizations in five countries to provide micro-loans, training and mentoring. Since the first partner organization was established in the Philippines in 1991, Mentors has helped more than 817,000 people and 143,000 families work their way out of poverty.

Some 1,400 people attended the fundraising event, garnering nearly $300,000, said president and CEO Mark L. Petersen, who announced a goal to raise at least an additional $1 million by year's end.

A video presentation at the gala featured tributes to Elder Hanks from family members and from Elders Jeffrey R. Holland and Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve, both of whom served in the British Mission with Elder Hanks as president. They all lauded his sense of compassion for those in need.

"We never had a Christmas, and I mean never, in our whole married life that we didn't have a guest, somebody who was homeless, somebody who was in trouble, someone who was traveling and was stranded here," said Elder Hanks' wife, Maxine, who received the award for her husband, in the video tribute.

U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch received the award for Mrs. Bush, who then was seen on large, projected television images giving her acceptance. "Mentors' micro-lending and business training programs have helped nearly a million people lift themselves out of poverty," she said. "My lifelong commitment is to improve the living conditions and the education of women, children and families around the world through global literacy. In this way, my work converges with Mentors', since we're both striving to help the less-fortunate in the world achieve self-reliance through education."

Tabernacle Choir President Mac Christensen received the Mentors' Hand Up Award for the Tabernacle Choir, presented by board chairwoman Mary Ellen Smoot, a former Relief Society general president. Musical director Mack Wilberg conducted the choir, with Salt Lake Tabernacle organist Andrew Unsworth accompanying on a grand piano.

Lloyd D. Newell, announcer for the choir's "Music and the Spoken Word" broadcast, has served as master of ceremonies for the annual gala since it began in 2005. With 260 of the 360 choir members (the maximum that portable risers would hold) performing at the gala, Brother Newell felt he had "died and gone to heaven" with friends in front of and friends behind him.

Between choir selections, Brother Newell spoke of being on a field trip last summer to visit Mentors clients in El Salvador and Guatemala. He told of meeting Jose Abdulio Morales, a maker of adobe bricks in San Salvador.

"He was supporting his family of five with an income of a hundred dollars a month," Brother Newell said. "Then he heard about Mentors in El Salvador ? and he soon became a client and received $150. With training, a lot of hard work and with that $150, he's turned that into an income of $300 a month."

Brother Newell quoted him as saying, "Even though I only have a fifth-grade education, I have created a detailed business plan with the help of Mentors. I also have goals to own a bigger brick oven and to build a nicer home. These dreams are now actually a possibility."

Brother Newell said he has realized "there could be nothing more valuable that we could give to people than a way to support a family, which can also lead to other things in their lives."

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