Last month, the Relief Society marked its 163rd anniversary, celebrating more than a century and a half of relief efforts to members and neighbors around the world. Ward Relief Societies have created service traditions, improved community relations, and reached out to young and old, members of the Church and those who are not.
Bountiful Sisters’ Relief Efforts Ongoing
For several years, the Relief Society presidency and enrichment leaders of the Bountiful 24th Ward, Bountiful Utah Heights Stake, have strived to remember the importance of relief in Relief Society.
Thanks to current events, the ward’s desire to help has increased even more.
The ward has forged a tradition of helping others by quilting blankets and clothing, making toys and teddy bears, and knitting scarves and caps. After learning of the destruction caused by the tsunamis in southeast Asia, Relief Society sisters prepared and delivered many of these items for donation.
Carol Jensen, the ward Relief Society president, said the role of the Relief Society is important to many people. “Through Relief Society, the sisters joining the Church have found not only love, which has motivated sisterhood, but also the weekly lessons, which have encouraged knowledge and spiritual expansion,” she said.
In addition to making donations to places far away, the ward has also donated stuffed bears and quilts to hospitals and shelters in Utah. A shipment of bears was also sent to North Dakota to raise spirits after floodwaters damaged homes there.
Ward members have made sacrifices in order to perform the service. Many sisters have contributed money as well as hours working on the projects. The ward hopes that through its service, other wards will be motivated to do the same.
“We are being stricken with so many tragedies throughout the world,” ward member Dora Flack said. “Our service needs to grow to match them.”
Interfaith Service Builds Relationships in California
What started as a plan for an enrichment night meeting for the Redlands Second Ward, Redlands California Stake, turned into an interfaith humanitarian effort that helped build relationships between members of other faiths and Latter-day Saints in the Redlands area and resulted in thousands of items being sent to the needy in Afghanistan.
Jean Arnott, who was in charge of the project, initially planned on making the endeavor a one-day affair. But she found that as the group invited those of other faiths to participate, the ability to serve increased dramatically.
Although the initial plan was to prepare 100 hygiene kits, 100 newborn kits, and 100 wooden toy cars, the group, which became known as Women of Faith of Redlands, was able to far exceed those plans.
Hundreds of women of many faiths visited the Redlands California Stake Center each Thursday from May until September 2004 to assemble, paint, gather, and sew materials.
By the time the project ended, the women had made 437 newborn kits; 375 hygiene kits; 64 school kits; 244 quilts; 809 sets of infant and toddler clothing; 738 sets of hats, scarves, and gloves; and more than 3,200 toys.
“The original goal was to gather women of different religious faiths together to provide some kind of humanitarian service,” Sister Arnott said. “What resulted from the efforts of these Women of Faith was more than any of us imagined.”
Alaskan Sisters Focus on Local Needs
During the last three years, Relief Society sisters in the Soldotna Alaska Stake have sewed, knitted, crocheted, and assembled more things than most people do in a lifetime.
Sisters in the Sterling, Soldotna, Homer, and Kenai Wards, along with occasional helpers from Primary children and young women, have met several times during the last three years to provide service for those in need.
While several of the things the group has done were sent to other countries or to Humanitarian Services in Salt Lake City, the group is now more focused on helping those in need locally.
“We’re not doing it to be seen,” said Diane Henwood of the Sterling Ward. “We want to spread our service around in the Alaska area, too. We are focusing now on that.”
Recently, the Sterling and Soldotna Wards donated portable cots and bedding to Kenai Interfaith Shelter Services, and the sisters recently began to knit quilts for children going into foster care.
Sister Henwood, a professional quilter, said the sisters who are involved love to do the service. “Anytime there’s a need, we try to fill that need,” Sister Henwood said.