Who gets helped and how well? The Church deals primarily with those capable of self-support whose income has been temporarily disrupted, usually helping for three or four months. The Church cannot replace long-term government assistance programs for the elderly and disabled. People need help while unemployed or ill, during family breakups, and while overcoming excessive debt. Under educated and large families, two-thirds of them male-headed, are typical on the welfare rolls. Formal welfare services are supplemented by informal Relief Society help- meals, house cleaning, and childcare. The program fills a gap for fewer than 5 percent of Mormons in the United States. Figures aren't given out, but counsel revealed in a legal dispute that in 1990 welfare services spent $4.6 million in Salt Lake City and in 1970 $17.7 million in Utah. To supplement other resources, Fast Offerings, donations given monthly on fast day, go solely for poor relief.
Welfare Square, on seventeen acres in Salt Lake City, serves the local community with its bakery, cannery, dairy plant, granary, quality assurance lab, Deseret Industries retail store, and visitors' center. Deseret, a Book of Mormon word meaning "honey bee" Ether 2:3 Book of Mormon 1981, suggests that every worker bee does his or her part on behalf of the whole group. Volunteers, many on welfare themselves, donate 400,000 days of labor a year. Recipients contribute to the system while they receive help, doing tasks devised by the leaders. The beneficiaries gain selfreliance so that they can later help someone else. Around the world, the Church operates 109 bishops' storehouses with full shelves. Mormons help produce every item with the Deseret brand label-bread and milk, soap and shampoo, and canned goods. They plant the vegetables, pick them, can them, shelve them, and distribute them.
The forty-seven Deseret Industries (DI) retail stores in seven western states are generally crowded. In these sprawling structures, half the space is used to sort and repair donated items. In the other half, inexpensive used and usable articles are displayed for purchase. Six thousand workers, 40 percent LDS, a quarter with some sort of disability, are trained to become employable and independent by working at DI. Immigrants from other countries find their first job there. Thrifty shoppers find a used highchair, a family room sofa, a piece of handwork, or a winter coat, all at very low prices. People are happy to give their castoffs to a place that uses them well; the inventory jumps off the shelves. Forty percent of the customers shop there weekly.
The Humanitarian Resource Center of North America reaches out internationally to people of all faiths. As Dean Walker, a unit manager, says, "Our basic belief is that everyone is our brother and our sister. Wherever they are and whatever religion they are, if they are in need and we have the resources, we should help them." The HRC, housed in a 20,000-foot Church-sponsored warehouse, gathers and sends off donated items. The HRC provided emergency help to 123 major international disasters from 1986 to 2000 and distributed cash donations of $60 million plus material donations of $291 million in 147 countries. Tons of food, medical equipment, clothing, and educational supplies were sent out. They give food to soup kitchens, shelters, and food banks, as well as vouchers for Deseret Industries. The Church made a "significant contribution" to the Measles Initiative, a long-term vaccination project in Africa. In Houston, Texas, the church provided labor, jars, and lids at their peanut butter factory to the Houston Food Bank, which supplied the peanuts. Members sew quilts and clothing for distribution.
Because of these programs, the Church has long been known as a group that takes care of its own. The Church traditionally opposes government assistance, although Utahns have certainly benefitted from government programs. The Church stresses individual preparation and cooperation. The opening up of its humanitarian programs to local non-Mormon groups and to people worldwide exemplifies the Church's widening focus in recent years.
After the terrorist attacks in 2001, programs preparing for disaster or unemployment were newly stressed. Members are urged to store a year's supply of food and clothing and perhaps fuel and funds. Mormons buy beans, sugar, powdered milk, wheat, and other non-perishable foodstuffs to be vacuum packed and stored at home; they store food in closets, under beds, and in the garage. They recommend a permanent backpack for each family member stocked with seventy-two hours worth of food, clothes, a blanket, cash, and copies of important documents for quick exit. Moved by this counsel, an unusually zealous couple, Dennis and Faye Moore of Raleigh, North Carolina, built a 600 square-foot basement "pantry" to hold a year's supply of food for themselves and the families of their four nearby married children. They have four fifty-gallon drums of water, a canning machine, a manual grinder for their wheat, and food in cans, boxes, and barrels. They also have a vegetable garden, a well, and a generator; they are thinking of ways to store fuel. Members are told not to count on others to bail them out. They are to live within their means, get out of debt, and lay by goods for a rainy day, which has always come and will come again.
The Church gets public credit when the well-organized network kicks in for emergencies, quickly mobilizing supplies and volunteers. Members have come in numbers to sandbag Salt Lake City against flooding, to search for lost children, and to relay messages quickly. Congregations volunteer in community programs and begin their own. A successful program pairs college and high school students for tutoring at Stanford University. In the Boston Revere Second Ward, Bishop John Wright saw the students in his ward, many from immigrant families, floundering. He organized thirty struggling teenagers and thirty college- aged LDS tutors to work at "Books and Basketball." One Harvard graduate student remembered driving to Revere each week, picking up carloads of students. They set up tables and chairs in the Church's cultural hall and studied with the kids for an hour before breaking into a "frenzied game of basketball." Friendships resulted, mentoring occurred, and all had a good time.