The journey of a single peach through the hands of thousands of Latter-day Saint volunteers to the mouths of a hurricane-torn family is proof that through small and simple acts of service the Church can collectively accomplish something large.
The story started at a Church welfare farm in North Ogden, Utah, where local members cared for peach trees. In late summer of this year, volunteers picked a bumper crop of peaches.
The peaches were delivered to a Church cannery in Lindon, Utah, where they were cleaned and processed by additional volunteers.
Now bearing the “Deseret” label, the canned peaches were transported to Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, where still more volunteers placed them into family food boxes. Those boxes where then loaded — again by volunteer Church members — onto a truck and driven to Texas.
LDS volunteers there unloaded the truck and carried the food boxes into the home of a needy family in the greater Houston, Texas, area; they were still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Ike that devastated their community.
The family opened a food box filled with enough to feed them for a week to 10 days. They found rice, vegetable oil, peanut butter, fruit drink mix and a single can of peaches.
“We pay tribute, and rightfully so to the many members, who are on the front line providing relief for those in need. And they deserve a lot of thanks for their effort,” said Dennis Lifferth, managing director of Church Welfare Services. “But behind that box of food that is delivered in Texas, are another 1,000 man-hours making it possible to put this box together…. Behind those boxes are hours and hours of devoted hard work by members who want to serve.”
Brother Lifferth said there are four important pillars that help support the Church’s welfare system.
• First, he said, is the opportunity for Church members to reach out and give service to others. “The system is set up to bless both the giver and the receiver,” he said. “It provides a way for members who have a compassionate heart, who want to serve, to be able to do it in a way that is consistent with the principles of the gospel.”
• Second is the belief that the Church can “help people help themselves,” he said. “It allows those in need the opportunity to work,” he said.
• Third is the increasing ability of the Church to cooperate with other humanitarian organizations across the globe, including Catholic Community Services, Islamic Relief and the Red Cross. “We want to work with our neighbors,” he said.
• The fourth — and most important — pillar is faith, he said. “As we help others and we do it in the Lord’s way, it makes a lasting difference.”
Part of what makes the Church so effective, he said, is the principle of preparedness. “Preparation is key — an essential part of welfare,” he said.
The Church has 138 storehouses located around the Western Hemisphere; 108 of those storehouses are in the United States and Canada and 128 are operated entirely by volunteers. Food items for the storehouses are produced at canneries and other facilities across the United States.
Each year, 14 Church canneries produce 12.6 million cans of food. In addition, Deseret Bakery produces 453,594 loaves of bread, Deseret Pasta produces 938,505 pounds of pasta and Deseret Soap produces 2.6 million pounds of soap. Deseret Dairy produces 9.8 million pounds of milk, 1.5 million pounds of powdered milk and 727,251 pounds of cheese.
The Deseret label represents compassion, hard work and high quality, said Brother Lifferth. “It is the only brand that money can’t buy,” he said, noting that the products are not sold but distributed to the poor and needy and victims of disasters.
“Over the years,” Brother Lifferth said, “we have watched the system grow and develop. Many years ago it was difficult to take care of our own.”
Now, he said, reaching out is possible because of the breadth and depth of what the Church does.
In essence, members can “go out and pick the peaches in the orchard. And they can go the cannery and put the peaches in a can. And they can help stock the cans in the storehouse or put them in a box that will eventually be given to someone in need.”
It all works, he added, because “people want to express their deep feelings of compassion for others in ways that will make a difference.”