“Deseret Industries Serves Local Agencies,” Ensign, Mar. 2009, 79–80
When members of the Driggs Second Ward, Driggs Idaho Stake, were looking for a service project, their local Deseret Industries helped connect them with the Family Safety Network, a nonprofit organization that serves abused children. The members prepared the organization’s backyard property for a fence, a community garden, and a safe place for children to play.
When young women in the Bountiful Utah Orchard Stake wanted to serve, through their local Deseret Industries they found the Davis County Children’s Justice Center, another organization serving abused children. The young women donated 102 fleece blankets, several pairs of decorated flip-flops and books.
The Family Safety Network and the Davis County Children’s Justice Center are just 2 of nearly 400 agencies in seven states that participate in the Church’s Community Partnership Program.
“These partnerships forge a stronger link between members of the Church and the community in which they live,” said Elder Vaughn Wilson, a missionary who is serving as a Community Partnership Coordinator with his wife, Sister Gwen Wilson. “A lot of people are looking for service project opportunities, but they often overlook their own communities. Agencies in their areas can certainly use the help.”
Members can call their local Deseret Industries store to find out which agencies the Church has partnered with and what kind of help those agencies need. If there is no Deseret Industries store in the area, Elder Wilson hopes local leaders will encourage members to help established agencies within their own communities.
Aside from connecting agencies in need with volunteers willing to help, the Community Partnership Program provides selected agencies with a certain number of vouchers, which can be used like gift certificates at the Deseret Industries’ stores. Each organization is allowed to use the vouchers at its own discretion, helping families and individuals in a way the agency is not normally equipped to do.
For instance, the River Oak Center for Children in Carmichael, California, is nationally recognized for its programs that help children meet life’s challenges.
However, the center relies on community support to meet the material needs of low-income families trying to keep their children or get them back. Child protection laws in the area will not allow children to stay in homes that are without basic household items such as beds, seasonal clothes, blankets, and so forth.
So when a mother came to the River Oak Center in these very circumstances recently, they offered her vouchers to the Sacramento, California, Deseret Industries, where she picked out the needed furnishings and blankets. Shortly after that her children returned home.
“Working together, we can give parents the strength to address the children’s needs more fully,” said Alice Gentry, community affairs manager for the River Oak Center.
In 2007, the partnership program helped 18,863 individuals, who redeemed more than $700,000 worth of vouchers. Elder Wilson said the program helps the Church respond to local needs and provide for people in a variety of circumstances, including released prisoners, foster care families, teen mothers, and the disabled.
Other service includes helping refugee families in Phoenix, Arizona, obtain furnishings and dishware and helping homeless people in Seattle, Washington, get clothes for job interviews.
The partnership helps meet a broad spectrum of needs by dealing with established agencies that have the local experience to help, Elder Wilson said.