GILBERT, Arizona — Terr Howard sat among the scores of Church and community leaders and members gathered for the Oct. 20 open house and dedication of the new Gilbert, Arizona, Deseret Industries facility. No one else present could match his personal experiences and understanding of the blessings and benefits provided by Deseret Industries.
That’s because the husband, father and commercial-construction contractor from the Mesa/Gilbert area of metropolitan Phoenix was in a serious automobile accident several years ago. His multiple injuries included partial brain damage — which impaired his ability to retain new information. After being hospitalized for several months, he was unable to stand for long periods of time or speak in complete sentences.
With no job and no income, Howard — who is not a Latter-day Saint — received a bishop’s recommendation for work and training at the Mesa Deseret Industries, initially working shortened shifts in the facility’s clothing area. Thanks to the repetition of his duties and interactions with managers, co-workers and ultimately with customers on the sales floor, Howard experienced improvements in his physical and mental capabilities.
After 16 months of work and training at Deseret Industries and with the help of Deseret Industries managers, Howard was able to re-obtain his contractor’s license and is once again employed in local construction work.
Caring for those in need
Bishop Dean M. Davies, the first counselor in the Presiding Bishopric, who delivered a keynote address prior to dedicating the new Gilbert Deseret Industries, acknowledged Terr Howard and his wife, Stacie, introducing them to the other attendees during his remarks. He spoke of the key importance of “the lifting and rebuilding of lives — lives that have sometimes been shaken by overpowering circumstances.”
“I would likewise hope that each of us would be cautious about categorizing people as either ‘needy’ or ‘self-reliant,'" Bishop Davies added. "In reality, all of us, at different times of our lives and in different ways, may fall among the ranks of those in need, just as all of us are not so much ‘self-reliant’ as we are ‘Savior-reliant.’
“The Lord will certainly fulfill His promise to prosper those who love, serve and obey Him,” Bishop Davies said, “but that does not mean we will not have periods of temporary need.”
The new 52,584-square-foot facility features areas for receiving, processing and sales, along with offices for Development Counseling Services and classrooms for training. It’s the fourth Deseret Industries in Arizona — following predecessors in Mesa, Glendale in west metro Phoenix, and Tucson — and the 44th overall in the United States.
“It stands as a testament to the Lord’s continuing care for His children — and particularly to His children who are in need,” said Bishop Davies.
After its Oct. 20 weekend dedication and open house tours, the Gilbert Deseret Industries opened to the public on Oct. 23 for a five-day grand opening.
Thrift store and more
More than just a thrift store and donation center, Deseret Industries also features its own manufactured items such as furniture and sleep products as well as new items in bedding, clothing and underwear.
Deseret Industries also includes a job-training program with vocational counseling, help in training, classes and certifications. Donations and purchases at Deseret Industries help fund those programs.
Bishop Davies listed off a week’s projects for when the Gilbert Deseret Industries is up and running — including 90 D.I. associates working and receiving job-skills training, 3,500 customers, 30 bishops’ orders to provide clothing and household goods and more than 100 individuals involved in development counseling while progressing toward career goals.
For the opening, the Gilbert Deseret Industries received products delivered by 36 semi-trucks, including 100,000 pieces of clothing, 200-plus palettes of small household goods and hundreds of furniture items.
Celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, Deseret Industries’ 2017 totals included more than 16,000 associates receiving training and more than 42,000 volunteers providing service. Also, some 6 million pounds of clothing and shoes were donated by Deseret Industries in humanitarian aid and emergency relief efforts following major catastrophes in the United States and worldwide.
In explaining the purposes and processes of not only Deseret Industries specifically but also the Church’s Welfare Program in general to the visitors gathered at the Oct. 20 dedication services, Bishop Davies recalled the comment from someone touring the bishops' storehouse, job training and dairy processing facilities at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City.
At the latter area, the tour group watched large blocks of cheese being cut and packaged, with the severed ends collected in a separate bin. The group was told the ends are donated to a local Catholic church, which in turn uses the cheese as it makes sandwiches for its free lunch program for those in need.
“In the Church’s welfare program, there is no waste,” said one of the tour group members, according to Bishop Davies, who added that the tour host then pointed out the storehouse associates and the job training efforts in helping individuals in need.
“And there is likewise no waste of human life,” the tour guide added.
One never knows when his or her situation could change from being a donor to being in need of assistance,” Bishop Davies said.
“Can we learn to look on both without labels and without stigmas? Can we give willingly of both our substance and our volunteer labor to sustain the services that will be provided to those who come to this facility for support?” he asked.
“We never know when they may be one of our own. And even if they are not one of our own, they are one of the Lord’s own, and the way that we view and treat them, as He so eloquently stated in Matthew, chapter 24, will reveal the way that we would view and treat Him.
“May we therefore do all in our power to ensure that no human life is wasted,” Bishop Davies concluded, “but rather embraced, uplifted and exalted.”