Humanitarian outreach by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is benefitting many people throughout the country through dozens of non-profit organizations in Utah and surrounding states. Donations range from assistance for the homeless to those in drug treatment programs to families in need of temporary shelter.
One of the most recent efforts to provide community support is the donation of furniture manufactured by the Church to help fill the new rooms in addition to some renovated rooms at the Intermountain Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City. The expansion with 42 new rooms opened this week, providing a place for families with hospitalized children a comfortable and affordable place to spend the night.
“This donation is so deeply appreciated and so important to our expansion,” said Carrie Romano, executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Intermountain Area, Inc. “Without it, I don’t know that we would have been able to purchase new, beautiful bedroom furniture for these amazing new homes for families,” said Romano. “We are so thrilled about this donation, and it will provide a lasting impact for families for so many years to come.”
Romano reported that up to 10 families are turned away from her facility every night as the demand grows. “We have some remarkably, fabulous world-class pediatric care, and that means families are coming from many different states and regions and countries to access care here,” she said. The Ronald McDonald House in Salt Lake City serves families accessing specialty care for their children at nearby Primary Children’s Hospital, University of Utah Hospital and Shriners Hospital for Children.
“The Church has the opportunity to help fill 52 rooms of furniture,” said Rick Foster, manager of the Church’s Humanitarian Services for North America, who explained that the furnishings were built locally by those who are learning work skills at the Deseret Manufacturing facility.
“We’re providing beds, mattresses and the dressers and nightstands in these rooms. We’ve also provided a little bit of cash in addition to that to provide some recliners that turn into twin beds,” Foster said. He estimated that the in-kind furniture donation from the Church is valued at more than $100,000. Thirty Church-service missionaries spent two days in late February unloading and assembling the new bedroom furniture.
“And the families who are with us are away from their own homes, neighbors, schools, churches, families and support systems, so we work really hard to create a soft landing spot with lots of love and compassion for folks who are going through a very difficult time and are away from their support systems,” said Romano. “Our work is simply only possible with the support of the entire community. We call this the house that love built because it is in fact only possible with the love and kindness of the community.”
The facility, located at 935 E. South Temple, had only 25 rooms before its expansion, but it will ultimately have 72 rooms once the $11 million project is complete in early 2015. The original house, built in 1988, will be renovated as well.
“The Church loves projects like this because it provides an opportunity to link arms with partners in the community,” said Foster. “It allows us to bridge gaps of misunderstanding. It allows us to provide opportunities for our members and individuals within the community to reach out and serve.”
More than 150,000 pieces of furniture are constructed at the Deseret Manufacturing facility every year, including mattresses, dressers, headboards, night stands, kitchen tables and chairs and pillows. As many as 250 work trainees are employed at the Deseret Manufacturing plant at any time, which is associated with the Church’s Deseret Industries thrift stores, where some of the furnishings are sold. “Typically the type of individuals that we’re employing there are refugees, individuals that are exiting corrections, or simply individuals that are underemployed,” said Foster.
Foster emphasized that the skills the trainees are learning will translate into skills that may lead to higher wages and jobs in the private sector. “There are several large furniture manufacturing facilities here in Salt Lake, including several mattress manufacturing facilities, so it’s a perfect fit to have this facility here in Salt Lake, and these individuals in that facility can then develop these work skills and move into these private facilities,” he said.
“The Church donates furniture to several community partners throughout the United States,” said Foster. “We also make it available to our bishops who can give it free of charge to their local congregation members. Frequently this furniture goes to members of our Church, as well as to individuals in the community that may be in need.” The mattresses and other pieces are also used to furnish Church schools, mission homes and missionary apartments.
“This furniture is of the highest quality that we can produce,” described Foster. “We feel that in all that we do in Welfare Services and Humanitarian Services in the Church that if we’re acting on behalf of the Savior, we want to offer our very best to those that are in need. This furniture is no exception.”