Service in Houston Unifies Community Relationships

  By Linda Talbot, Church News contributor

  • 19 September 2013

Sister Basilisa Susu helps organize donated items for the Adopt a Vet program. The organization Compassionate Houston was able to meet its goal of 310 baskets containing household items for veterans.  Photo by Jennifer Martino.

Article Highlights

  • Chronically homeless veterans in Houston had received needed housing but lacked supplies to turn houses into homes.
  • Church members and missionaries joined with other faith-based programs to create welcome-home baskets for the veterans.
  • With Church members’ help, the Adopt a Vet program was able to meet its goal of 300 baskets in 100 days.

“I can’t think of anything that is more important and rewarding than helping those who have given so much in service of our country and sometimes fall on hard times and don’t have resources.” —David J. Bertoch, president of the Houston Texas North Stake

HOUSTON, TEXAS

Members and missionaries from the Houston area joined with other individuals and faith-based organizations to provide welcome-home baskets for the Adopt a Vet program.

Amy Hogan, assistant director of public affairs for the Houston multistake council, had been nurturing a relationship with Betty Adam, pastor at Christ Church Cathedral and founder and director of the humanitarian organization Compassionate Houston, while searching for a project to involve Houston area LDS wards and stakes.

A critical need arose with Housing Houston’s Heroes, a coalition providing housing, social services, and job assistance for chronically homeless veterans. Linda Andrus, project director for Compassionate Houston, became aware that the veterans were receiving much needed housing but lacked the basic household supplies to turn housing into homes. The welcome-home basket initiative—with each basket containing $250 worth of hygiene, kitchen, cleaning, bathroom, and bedroom items—was created. Ms. Andrus contacted Sister Hogan, and in a few days the Houston area stake presidents and stake Relief Society presidents were contacted. The Church became part of the “300 baskets in 100 days” push for the Adopt a Vet program.

“When God decides, He provides,” said Ms. Andrus. “We met our goal of 310 baskets largely due to your [LDS] community. The LDS community has been such a tremendous asset to our success.” Sister Hogan was impressed by the local members’ willingness to help and serve the veterans in the community.

“It was overwhelming to see these good members step up so quickly and happily to give. Before we knew it, there was more than I could handle and we enlisted others to help deliver the carloads of donations,” she said. Over the three collection days, 135 baskets full of supplies—including mops, sheets, and toiletries—were contributed. Sister Hogan continued, “I think it was wonderful on several levels. People understood a little more about who we [Latter-day Saints] are. Our members said over and over how wonderful to be involved in giving to the veterans. You know what you are donating to is a worthwhile cause and really makes a difference.”


Both Ms. Andrus and Sister Hogan referred to the response of the League City Texas Stake as being the epitome of the members’ generosity and willingness to bless others. Stretched with serving their own members dealing with tragedies of fire, car accident, and personal loss, the stake members stepped up to donate 20 baskets. Ms. Andrus was also impressed with the missionaries who arrived to help. “The young people are so disciplined. They follow their principles and have great manners that you don’t see today. They are wonderful young people,” she said. Missionaries greeted donors, unloaded cars, sorted supplies, and helped deliver baskets to veterans.

Members help bring in donations for the welcome-home basket initiative, which gives local veterans basic household items. Photo by Jennifer Martino.

Sister Basilisa Susu from Fiji, serving in the Houston Texas South Mission, was one of the many missionaries who participated. “It was awesome and amazing and uplifting to serve the veterans of this country,” she said. “This is something I could do for America. I felt love for the men and women who didn’t have these things.”

The welcome-home baskets contain hygiene, kitchen, cleaning, bathroom, and bedroom items. Photo by Jennifer Martino.

“I can’t think of anything that is more important and rewarding than helping those who have given so much in service of our country and sometimes fall on hard times and don’t have resources,” said David J. Bertoch, president of the Houston Texas North Stake. “This activity is worthy of any service-minded organization, whether it be churches or civic organizations. We were very pleased to have been approached and given the opportunity to participate in this effort, and we were pleased by the response of our members.”

Elders from the Church, Matthew Howard (left) and Michael Russell (right), pose with project director for Compassionate Houston, Linda Andrus (center), along with local veterans who benefited from the Adopt a Vet program. Photo by Jennifer Martino.

There is truth in the axiom service fosters fellowship. Sister Hogan anticipates future collaboration with Compassionate Houston. “We are excited to continue this relationship,” said Ms. Andrus. “We are meeting to discuss the next leg of the project and it will be amazing.”