In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 16, Sister Kristin M. Yee of the Relief Society general presidency and Sister Tracy Y. Browning of the Primary general presidency participated in a drive-thru food drive in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Tribute food drive was presented by the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, an organization that has provided social services to the St. Louis area for over a century. Its mission is to empower African Americans and others to secure economic self-reliance, social equality and civil rights.
Hundreds of volunteers, including many Latter-day Saints, braved the cold and rainy weather to help distribute food to families in need. Some 2,000 boxes of canned goods and nonperishable items were distributed, according to a news release on ChurchofJesusChrist.org.
“Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision was that we would all be treated as children of God,” said Sister Yee, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency. “He saw that. He understood that. He felt that and so do we. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe we are all children of our Heavenly Father, and all have value and worth innately because of that relationship with God.”
Sister Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, said: “It has just been marvelous to watch all these people who came out with no sunshine, in cold weather and rain, who are just here to support and serve those in the community. It’s a really beautiful spirit here today.”
Sister Yee and Sister Browning were joined by Elder Randall K. Bennett, General Authority Seventy and second counselor in the North America Central Area presidency. They each helped volunteers distribute boxes to expectant families.
“It’s a beautiful thing that we’re in this together. We feel like family,” said Elder Bennett. “We are brothers and sisters, and what families do is help one another and love one another. That’s what I see [here today] and that’s what [the Rev. King b’s] vision represents to me.”
Janice Gray was one of many who waited in line to receive a food box for her family. “I thought it was a beautiful way to keep Dr. Martin Luther King alive — his dream, his vision,” she said. “It brings tears to my eyes to know that we still are able to care for each other even in difficult times.”
The Church’s relationship with the league
While visiting Church headquarters in December 2022, Michael P. McMillan, CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, described the league’s relationship with the Church as “a tremendous alignment.”
The relationship began in 2020 when local Latter-day Saints started volunteering with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis through JustServe, a community service website sponsored by the Church.
In total, the Church has donated more than 120,000 pounds of food to the league over the course of the pandemic, according to Monday’s news release.
“The Church came to our aid on numerous occasions with volunteers wanting to give back and then sending truckloads of food on several occasions that … we didn’t have to buy because of the Church,” McMillan said.
The Church has also provided financial assistance to the league’s job-training program Save Our Sons (Save Our Sisters) as well as its Grills to Glory program, a collaboration between the League and local churches to strengthen communities.
In December 2022, leaders of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis toured Welfare Square, the Humanitarian Center and the Bishops’ Central Storehouse. These visits helped league Vice President James Clark see how the league’s mission aligns with that of the Church.
“The common ground is being mission-driven, focusing on what Jesus would do,” Clark said in an interview last December. “God has blessed us with the resources to be able to serve and feed people in a number of ways [and] being able to connect with a partner that can send in the … things that we need to strengthen what we’re doing on the ground.”