The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all our lives and economies but created even greater misery for those for whom food and housing insecurity are a grinding and daily reality. In response to those essential needs, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has provided a $35,000 cash donation to the Salvation Army of Calgary, and members of the Calgary West Stake have donated hundreds of blankets, hygiene kit supplies, and are partnering with the Salvation Army to find ongoing solutions to relieve the suffering of Calgarians experiencing homelessness.
Responding to Immediate Needs
In December 2020, local leaders of the restored Church of Jesus Christ in Calgary learned that the Salvation Army had experienced a drastic drop in donations to the seasonal Red Kettle Campaigns throughout the city. Troubled by this report, Calgary West Stake President Colin Steele reached out to the Salvation Army of Calgary and asked a simple but powerful question, “What do you need?”
Jane Ellen Forbes, Community Ministries Manager for Calgary Salvation Army, explained that the most pressing, immediate need was for blankets to help protect vulnerable Calgarians against the frigid winter conditions. The call went out to leaders of the West Stake Relief Society, and within forty-eight hours, the sisters had collected 398 blankets and quilts for donation.
Within a few more days, hundreds more blankets were donated. Church members, community neighbors, and friends also donated sleeping bags, coats, socks, and hygiene kit supplies to help provide warmth and protection against the elements.
$35,000 Cash Donation
To further assist ongoing Salvation Army humanitarian initiatives, President Steele stated: “After speaking with the local leaders of the Salvation Army, we connected with the appropriate Church leaders [at headquarters] in Salt Lake City. They quickly responded and forwarded the funds to be donated. It was an incredible experience to deliver $35,000 through Janielee Williamson, our stake Relief Society president, and Kerrie Davis, our regional JustServe specialist. The funds will go toward providing needed food supplies and basic essentials for families with babies and small children.”
Jane Ellen Forbes explains that there had been a significant increase in demand for food, infant formula, diapers and clothing during the pandemic. The Salvation Army Forest Lawn location has grown from serving 25 individuals to serving an average of 150 individuals weekly, some of whom were families. As the Red Kettle Campaign donations had plummeted, Salvation Army’s ability to offer community resources, food, clothing, and safe accommodation for vulnerable Calgarians was greatly impacted. Forbes added, “As we pondered how we were going to do God’s work with so much less money, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints came forward, stating they would like to help with money and with service. Their message tells us that we are not going to do this alone.”
Elder David C. Stewart, Area Seventy, emphasized, “The Salvation Army is a great organization that cares for many children of Heavenly Father who are disadvantaged for a variety of reasons. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a long history of partnering with other organizations on projects that align our common goals of trying to help lift God’s children.”
Strengthening Christlike Associations
It is this ongoing partnership that is particularly exciting for West Stake Relief Society President Janielee Williamson. In addition to the Calgary West Stake Relief Society’s initial collection and donation of blankets, clothing, and hundreds of hygiene kit supplies, plans are underway to work with the Salvation Army on an initiative to source and supply sustainable and reusable diapers for vulnerable families with children. The West Stake Relief Society has committed to provide an ongoing supply of handmade drawstring diaper bags, which will also double as laundry bags. The reusable diapers and laundry bags will reduce the significant cost to the Salvation Army of supplying disposable diapers to families.
Both Janielee Williamson and Jane Ellen Forbes are energized by the opportunity to partner the humanitarian mission of the Salvation Army with the formidable strength of the women of the West Stake Relief Society. They see what the loving efforts of hundreds of women of faith can do to ease suffering in their communities, and they see the partnership of these local organizations from a more personal perspective, as well.
Says Janielee: “The world needs more Jane Ellens. Her commitment and caring are so evident, and I feel like she and I have become sisters in our efforts.”
Jane Ellen shares: “People like Janielee are the reason that I love what I do. I can’t wait to see how we can serve together in the future.”
Though their religious affiliations are different, their commitment to minister to those in need as disciples of Jesus Christ is beautifully aligned (see Matthew 25:34-40).
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma taught that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). President Steele’s simple question, “What do you need?” has opened the door for much good, new friendships, and great possibilities to help individuals and families in need.