By Trish Linner
SOUTH BEND — In 2012, Notre Dame sponsored an interfaith forum where Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades was introduced to President Rick Jones from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). This introduction led to a meeting between Bishop Rhoades, President Jones and local public affairs representatives from the LDS South Bend Stake (a stake is comparable to a Catholic diocese) to discuss ways the LDS could collaborate with Catholic Charities to serve the community.
“Bishop Rhoades was kind enough to meet with us to discuss humanitarian and religious freedom issues and concerns we hold in common with our friends in the Catholic Church,” said Jones.
The meeting would lead to a collaboration that is now in its third year. “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints encourages its local leaders to direct the collaborative efforts of their congregations according to the needs and resources of their communities. This is something the LDS Church does worldwide,” said Tina Slabach, public affairs director, South Bend Stake. Slabach helps organize donations from the LDS, and assists with the delivery to Catholic Charities.
“We were inspired to seek out service opportunities with Catholic Charities and we are so grateful that Bishop Rhoades and the leadership of Catholic Charities agreed to allow us to help them in their already amazing South Bend-St. Joseph County community efforts,” Slabach said.
Catholic Charities has been serving the community since its inception in 1922. The West Region Center in South Bend typically serves about 50 families with approximately 150 children with their annual Christmas program in addition to the services provided year round.
“We are always grateful for the support Catholic Charities receives from businesses, schools, groups and individuals,” said Claire Coleman, West Region director, Catholic Charities. “This partnership between Catholic Charities and the LDS gives us more opportunities to serve the community.”
The LDS community is grateful to help. President Jones commented, “Catholic Charities does great work in tirelessly serving people’s needs in the South Bend area. Every relief organizations needs support and the people of our congregations in and around the South Bend area have been blessed through giving of their time and resources. Doing good, feels good. We look forward to continued combined efforts to help where we can.”
The South Bend Indiana LDS Stake is comprised of nine congregations in five buildings, located in Niles, Michigan, South Bend, Plymouth, Elkhart and Warsaw.
Slabach said, “One of the things we have loved about being involved in this holiday project on an ongoing basis is that it has allowed opportunities to serve for all of our organizations. As the entire stake is asked to be involved, it can be logistically difficult. Each unit solves the logistical problems differently, and we seem to get more efficient every year. In this, our third year of partnering with Catholic Charities, the adult organizations, such as the Relief Society and Elder’s Quorum, made quilts, scarves, hats, mittens and kept track of requested donations. The youth organizations in all nine congregations came together one Saturday for an evening activity to sort and bundle the donations into individual hygiene kits. In addition, they hand-made fleece blankets and Christmas greeting cards. It has been a truly wonderful opportunity for everyone in the South Bend stake to emulate the love of our Savior in our community.”
“We are very grateful for the donations from the LDS, especially the personal hygiene kits that they put together each year,” said Coleman. “They are a real blessing to families, and a great gift for teenagers. They specialize the kits for men, women and teens so that each person gets what they need. We donate them to families at Christmas and throughout the year to people in need. The LDS donations make a real difference for the families we serve, especially at Christmas time” Coleman said.
In addition to the Christmas program, Catholic Charities serves the community with year-round services for families in need.
Coleman noted that while it is always wonderful to have gifts to give at Christmas time, Catholic Charities serves people in need year round. “People need food, they need simple things like toilet paper and laundry soap. We welcome contributions all year.”
For more information about Catholic Charities, visit www.ccfwsb.org. To learn more about the LDS humanitarian efforts visit www.ldsphilanthropies.org.
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