BYU Women’s Conference Service Projects Help Serve Thousands

Contributed By Noelle Baldwin, Church News contributor

  • PROVO, UTAH

A team of 12 women measure, fill, and seal food packets that will be donated to local agencies.  Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

Article Highlights

  • Participants made 350,000 food kits and 14,000 hygiene kits.
  • The conference worked with Feeding Children Everywhere, LDS Charities, and many local nonprofit organizations.
  • Participants left inspired to serve in their own communities.

This year marked the 40th year of the Brigham Young University Women’s Conference. Thousands of women traveled from across the United States and other countries for the two-day conference held on April 28 and 29. Women came to be uplifted and to learn. However, in addition to the classes, they worked on a myriad of service projects during the conference.

Continuing a tradition

Service projects have been a part of women’s conference for the past 17 years. This year’s projects were well suited to the conference’s theme, “One in Charity.” This year thousands of projects were completed during the Evening of Service, a three-hour event held on the first night of the conference. These included making fleece blankets, Christmas stockings, courage capes, procedure dolls, meal kits, and personal hygiene kits. The materials for each service were donated by different companies or purchased by BYU.

One gymnasium in the Smith Fieldhouse was set aside for volunteers to assemble meal kits. Women’s conference worked with Feeding Children Everywhere to make 350,000 food kits that contained rice, lentils, dried vegetables, and salt. The women were divided into teams of 12 to scoop, seal, and box the meal kits. Each kit contained six servings, and each box held 48 kits.

Over 3,500 fleece blankets were made during the Evening of Service. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Finished teddy bears will be donated to local agencies to be handed out to young boys. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Women make infant blankets while listening to a broadcasted session of women's conference. Photo by Noelle Baldwin.

In a service learning room, women color greeting cards that will be donated to local hospitals, the Boys and Girls Club, and other community agencies. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Greeting cards that were colored by women's conference attendees will be donated to local women's centers, hospitals, and care centers. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Kits were distributed in the Wilkinson Center for women to make crocheted scarves while attending different sessions. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Claire Field from Provo, Utah, said as she was scooping rice into food packets, “Smile while we do this so when they open the bag joy comes out.” Sister Field has been attending women’s conference for the past 20 years and makes it a priority to stay for the night of service. “We want them [those who receive the donations] to feel the love,” she said.

In a separate gymnasium in the Smith Fieldhouse, women assembled personal hygiene kits. Women’s conference partnered with LDS Humanitarian Services to compile 14,000 hygiene kits, including 2,000 female kits. Every kit contained plastic bags, lotion, body wash, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner, petroleum jelly, toothpaste and toothbrushes, towels, wash cloths, and a comb. The women worked at 14 stations and finished 14,000 kits in a little over two and half hours.

The other projects were completed in BYU’s Richards Building. Laurie Hanks, who supervised the making of courage capes for girls, said that they definitely had the help of the Lord during the organization prior to the Evening of Service and the actual event.

An ongoing need

Demand for all of the projects exceeded the amount that could be made in a single night, even with thousands of volunteers. However, conference participants completed almost 1,300 courage capes, 650 procedure dolls, and 3,500 blankets. All of the finished projects will be donated to local agencies such as Primary Children’s Hospital, the Boys and Girls Club of South Valley, Utah Youth Village, Utah Refugee Center, and local police and fire departments.

Other service opportunities were available throughout both days of the conference. The “make, take, and return” projects were available in the Marriott Center before the opening session. Many conference attendees checked out project kits, completed them while attending their classes, and then returned them at the end of the two-day conference. These projects included crocheted burp cloths, tag monster baby toys, teddy bears, and wheelchair/walker bags. Kits for 550 crocheted scarves were also handed out in the Marriott Center and the Wilkinson Center.

The service learning rooms allowed women to listen to a live broadcast of the sessions while working on other service activities. Greeting cards, journals, and fleece scarves and hats were some of the projects that were available. Rebecca Torgersen, who supervised making greeting cards, said that service learning rooms help build a community of love and create a welcoming atmosphere at the women’s conference.

Serving after the conference

Sharing stations were also available for attendees. The conference program said that the stations were for anyone who wanted new ways to “serve home and family, ways to serve in the community, and ideas for provident living.” Thirty-eight booths were erected in the Wilkinson Center for women to share ideas on how to increase spirituality and service in their homes and communities.

One of the goals of having service projects available during the conference was to inspire the women to go home and to continue to serve those around them. Overall, there were 15 need-based opportunities for attendees to participate in that will benefit local agencies, children, families, and refugees.

Mekenzie Davis, Shelly Fleming, Diane Hunt, and McCall Fleming sew teddy bears for little girls in a service learning room at women's conference on April 28. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Infant fleece blankets were made during the daytime sessions of women's conference in the service learning rooms. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

Thousands of volunteers help assemble hygiene kits during the Evening of Service on April 28. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

14,000 hygiene kits were assembled in the Smith Fieldhouse on April 28 as part of women's conference. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

At women's conference, volunteers color Christmas, thank you, and celebration greeting cards while listening to a live broadcast of a class. The goal was to color over 900 cards by the end of the conference. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

On April 28, attendees of women's conference color birthday, thank you, and other greeting cards while listening to the audio of a session that was broadcasted to a service learning room. Photo by Noelle Baldwin, BYU.

In the Smith Fieldhouse women package food kits as part of the Evening of Service during women's conference on April 28. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

Carolyn Gillespie and Joan Simpson tape a box containing 48 meal kits closed. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

A volunteer wraps a pallet of boxes containing meal kits that were assembled as part of the Evening of Service on April 28. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

On April 28 as part of the service projects at women's conference, a sister measures the amount lentils for one food packet. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

Women place lentils, rice, dried vegetables, and salt in meal packets on April 28 as part of women's conference. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

Two women crochet scarves while listening to a session of women's conference. Photo by Savanna Sorensen, BYU.

Sister Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, smiles as she visits the sharing stations at BYU Women's Conference. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

Sister Linda S. Reeves poses in front of one of the sharing stations in the Wilkinson Student Center on April 28. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.

Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society General President, greets a sister at the sharing stations on April 28. Photo by Savanna Sorensen, BYU.

Sister Linda K. Burton poses in front of the “I Was a Stranger” poster at the sharing stations on April 28. Photo by Savanna Sorensen, BYU.

On April 28 as part of the Evening of Service, women smile as they are creating meal kits. Photo by Aaron Cornia, BYU.