Nothing, nothing makes me more proud of the Mormon Church than the LDS Humanitarian Center. An unobtrusive grey building, tucked next to a freeway overpass on the industrial west side, it is the hub of $1.1 billion in humanitarian relief in 165 countries worldwide.
Ben, Stefan and I spent the afternoon there assembling Cleaning Kits(on other days you’ll find school kits, emergency kits, hygiene kits or newborn kits–my personal favorite) for victims of war, poverty and natural disasters. We were awed by the organization and level genius of the whole operation. I stood at the head of the assembly line and put a bottle of bleach in a 4 gallon plastic bucket, the tub worked it’s way down the line being filled with Mr. Clean, dish soap, sponges, scrub brushes, garbage bags, plastic gloves, soap, Ajax etc. until it was literally overflowing. Ben and Stefan stood at the end, placed a card in each kit and hammered on the lids. Our group of 30 cranked out 3,108 of those babies.
At the front of the line, my job was simple. I chatted with my 78 year old neighbor(8 children, 49 grandchildren!) and watched pallet after pallet of cleaning supplies unloaded and lined up for assembly. A group of teenagers laughed and flirted as they flattened empty boxes for recycling. Ben and Stefan had to work a little harder at their end as they pounded lid after lid with sweat streaming down their faces. Everything is brilliantly streamlined so that a different group of volunteers arriving every four hours can jump in and seamlessly keep the assembly line going.
I love that every $ I donate to the Humanitarian Center goes directly to aid. Most of the work is done by volunteers and the few employees are paid with other church funds. 99% of the employees are recent emigrants who would otherwise be on welfare. Their work at the HC doesn’t require language skills and is often the first stop for refugees fresh off the boat. ESL and life skills classes are mandatory for all emigrant employees and after 6-12 months they “graduate” to better jobs.
You’ve probably heard that trucks from the Humanitarian Center were headed to Louisiana before hurricane Katrina even hit land, arrived in Iowa within days of recent flooding, delivered emergency kits shortly after earthquakes rocked the Sichan province of China and show up pretty much anywhere disaster strikes.
The natural high from working at the HC is such that I was tempted to sign up for a shift every day this week. But sweet Hansie can’t babysit every day and I have my own little family at home that need help with cleaning, hygiene, food and minor emergencies.
Despite the jovial atmostphere of the assembly line we couldn’t help but worry about the recipients of each bucket who in some future, unknown disaster would use it to literally clean up the detritus of their lives. I hope you never need one of those buckets or kits, but if you do, know that tucked between the sponges and diapers and toothbrushes is an honest prayer for your peace, health and safety.