‘To see it in action is incredible’ — community influencers from around the world visit Welfare Square

While journalists from around the world gathered in downtown Salt Lake City for the 73rd General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association held Oct. 27-30 (see article on page 4), family members and associates of the journalists met at Welfare Square — a modern facility composed of a bakery, cannery, storehouse, dairy plant and thrift store that provides care for the poor — to learn about the LDS Church’s welfare programs.

Meant to be an informative experience for community influencers from Central and South America, the gathering — held on Oct. 27 — provided an opportunity for guests to see the services and welfare facilities of the Church.

“Welfare Square is like an embassy for the Church,” said Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. “People from all over the world come here and they learn about the principles that we use.”

Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, joined Sister Eubank as a guide. The two women shared the purpose and process of the work that takes place at Welfare Square.

“I think it is interesting to think that all of these resources we have come from the faith of people,” Sister Aburto said. “The faith both in sharing their resources and in giving their offerings — paying their tithing, fasting for 24 hours at least once a month and giving their ‘widow’s mite.’ ”

Recognizing that welfare services aren’t duplicated exactly the same way in every locale, Sister Eubank, who in addition to serving in the Relief Society general presidency works as the director of LDS Charities, said the principles remain the same.

“Whether you have this kind of brick and mortar or not, you have people who believe in those principles of work,” Sister Eubank said.

With a tour of Welfare Square and the Bishop’s Central Storehouse, visitors saw how the Church is able to help so many in need. Learning how processes work in Salt Lake shared a glimpse of what is available in their communities.

For Carolina Canahuati, a visitor from Honduras, seeing the sites in person was a powerful experience.

“You hear about a lot of things and you read a lot, but to see it in action is incredible,” she said. She added that she thought it was powerful to have people work as part of the process. “If you don’t work for it you don’t appreciate it.”

During the tour the group learned about the commodities — among them cheese, salsa, peanut butter and much more. The visit included a sample of cheese and chocolate milk.

“This place is a well-oiled machine,” said Jorge Anibal Navarro, who is originally from Colombia and now lives in Indiana. “It embodies a love of God and a love of self. Not being a Mormon you hear so much about the misunderstandings. Seeing this in action — how you donate, contribute and volunteer — really builds the community.”

Sister Aburto said a tour through the facilities is one way to feel the light of Christ and to feel the love Heavenly Father has for His children.

“As they went through, they felt the light of Christ,” Sister Aburto said. “They felt His love 3; and that He uses us as His hands — as instruments — so we can bless the lives of others. I am sure [the visitors] will be able to take that light wherever they go to their families and their communities. They will feel His influence in here because this is His place — this belongs to Him. It reflects what He wants from us.”

The group — which included visitors from more than nine countries — ended their tour with a service project assembling dry food packets to be distributed in the Salt Lake area.

“These [guests] wouldn’t come if they weren’t interested in doing things for their own people in their own countries,” Sister Eubank said. “They really have sincere interest — they could have done anything with their time in Salt Lake City and they chose to come here. We are just so grateful they would come.”