OGDEN -- "Shopping" for groceries at the Catholic Community Services Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank will be more pleasant for low-income clients after shelving is installed by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Officials recently announced approval from Smith's Food and Drug Community Affairs to provide the shelving and a promise from members of the LDS Ogden, Utah, stake to provide the labor to install it.
"I told (CCS of Northern Utah Director Marcy Valdez) if there were any costs involved, we would love to pay for that," said Scott Handy, chairman of the Ogden stake special projects committee. "We will go down and set up the shopping experience."
Handy said he wrote to Smith's asking for help with the shelving and was told yes because the store already is a partner with Catholic Community Services.
And the food bank partnership with members of the LDS faith also is an ongoing one that has been strengthened in recent months, Valdez said.
"At Christmas time, we were in a world of hurt for volunteers," Valdez said. "Every day we were not having enough people here. They sent an army of volunteers for a whole week. It was so amazing."
Valdez said 30 volunteers came in every day for a week from the Ogden LDS stake right around Thanksgiving, when volunteers were scrambling to provide holiday meals for low-income families.
"They did so much to help us get organized and get set up," Valdez said.
Handy said the surge of volunteers was the result of a call from the humanitarian center of the LDS Church asking his stake to get involved.
"When the church humanitarian department calls from Salt Lake City and tells us we need to get involved with Catholic Community Services, it's a pretty easy call," he said.
Handy said his own contribution was filling up bags of dog food for the pets of those with low incomes.
"We all sorted foods into special bins, whatever bins they needed us to sort them in," he said. "Every day, some new stuff would come in and the members of our stake would go down and organize them."
And Handy said when the members found out what it was like helping at the food bank, many of them stayed and continued to serve there.
"One person told me, there is a real special spirit there, and they loved it," he said.
That spirit of sticking with the project is what led to the effort to support the food bank with new shelves, Handy said.
But Valdez said the effort is just one in a long line of partnerships with members of the LDS faith that have kept the food bank afloat for many years.
"We have so many partnerships here in Ogden with the LDS Church," she said.
One such example began about 18 months ago. It's an agreement between the Ogden LDS cannery and the food bank that allows food bank volunteers to work at the cannery in four-hour shifts to earn a trade of food donations and hygiene kits for the food bank.
But Valdez said the food bank already received those items from the cannery before the agreement was reached.
"We get whatever we need," she said. "This is a way for us to give back to them. The LDS Church has always been supportive of us. This is a way for us to provide them support."
Valdez said the cannery project has been a lot of fun.
Many of the volunteers have come from the Weber State University Community Involvement Center.
"To be able to have that opportunity at the cannery is just one more way they can do service for Catholic Community Services in partnership with the LDS Church," she said.
Those interested in helping the food bank in this manner may call Carina Martin in the Ogden Catholic Community Services office to get information on times for the four-hour shifts. She can be reached at 801-428-1296.
Bradford R. Drake, executive director of the statewide Catholic Community Services, is himself a practicing member of the LDS Church and a resident of Davis County.
"I marvel at the collaboration of the two faiths working together for the good of mankind," Drake said in an email to the Standard-Examiner. "Whatever doctrinal issues exist between the two faiths, they are simply set aside to assist in a universal effort to serve those in need."
Drake said it's a story he wishes more people understood.
"I believe strongly, if the general membership of both faiths knew of the unity and trust between their hierarchy, they would be very proud and pleased of their Christ-centered efforts to feed and provide shelter for the poor and the hungry," he wrote.
"I am a witness on a daily basis of many acts of kindness demonstrated on behalf of those who suffer," he wrote. "Catholic Community Services of Utah offers 10 different programs throughout the state to assist the homeless or less fortunate. All programs are supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in the form of in-kind donations, including food, clothing, rental assistance, etc. There are significant volunteer efforts and monetary contributions as well.
"Simply put, the humanitarian services offered by the Catholic Church in the state of Utah, through Catholic Community Services, and supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, strengthen and provide hope to many who suffer, while practicing gospel principles of love and compassion for all."