Six forty-five a.m. That was the time my local congregation met at the chapel to carpool to the Houston Food Bank Saturday, October 12th to join the rest of the Katy Stake for our annual Day of Service. Our shift began at 8 a.m. with nearly 500 volunteers ages 12 and up.
My two daughters and I attended, but were soon separated into two groups. For safety reasons, kids under 16 were assigned to a separate job than the adults that did not require any machines. I spent my time in the “Carousel Room,” sorting donated goods into categorized bins, then putting the sorted bins onto motorized shelves. Teens and ‘tweens spent their time working mainly on the Backpack Buddies project which involved packing a well-balanced meal to be sent to schools in the Greater Houston area. These meals are then discreetly sent home in backpacks to children of needy families.
At the end of our four-hour shift, we were pleased to learn that the adults working in the Carousel Room had produced 32,620 meals and the kids working on the Backpack Buddies had produced 3,500 meals.
From employees, I learned that the Houston Food Bank is the largest in the United States and serves 18 counties all the way up to College Station.
Employees explained that the food donated to the Food Bank is sorted and stored at their warehouse until local neighborhood food pantries send them an order for necessary goods. While food is “banked” at the Houston Food Bank, there is also an emergency food pantry located behind it.
While it was evident that everyone in attendance felt the same pride in serving the community that my daughters and I did, I knew it was nothing new to our Church and that similar service is being done by our members all over the world.
Our annual ‘Day of Service’ first began in 2011 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of our Church welfare plan when Church leaders invited members worldwide to “render service to the poor and the needy.” https://www.lds.org/service/welfare-75th-anniversary/day-of-service?lang=eng
Besides the Houston Food Bank, members across the Houston area have worked tirelessly on other community projects such as cemetery clean-up and harvesting and planting community gardens.
Before he died, Book of Mormon prophet King Benjamin called for all the people in his kingdom to come hear his final address. He taught that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17).
As a young woman, I absolutely hated service projects and tried at all costs to avoid them. Over the years, as I learned to obey King Benjamin’s call for service, I have grown closer to God and have felt the happiness that service brings.
For a night owl like me, it was indeed a sacrifice to get up before the sun to go and serve in the Food Bank. Yet, it was an experience I will never forget and brought me great joy knowing that many needy people will have full stomachs and a knowledge that someone cares.