SALT LAKE CITY -- A huge, technology-driven facility, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' new Bishops' Central Storehouse exists for those in need of life's most basic necessities.
Officials unveiled the facility Thursday. The storehouse has 535,966 square feet of space and room for 65,000 pallets of food and supplies.
The nearly 36-acre facility, 405 W. 300 South in Salt Lake City, is built to withstand a magnitude 7.0 earthquake.
Officials touted an organizing system that allows for efficient rotation of fresh foods, storage at ideal temperatures and conditions and an ability to track the location of any one item that enters the doors.
But the manager of the new facility started a media tour by pointing out a picture of a poor widow hoeing in what looked to be a well-trodden village path.
"We want to portray that it's our responsibility to deal with the needs of the poor and the needy," said Richard Humphries, manager of the Bishops' Central Storehouse.
Humphries said the facility was funded by donations church members made each month when they are asked to fast for 24 hours and pay an offering representative of the amount they would have spent on food for those meals.
Those funds also are what pay the 93 employees, including 43 full-time truck drivers with the delivery arm of the church's welfare effort, Deseret Transportation. They drive 43 tractors and 98 trailers throughout North America, logging about 3.5 million miles per year.
Deseret Transportation, a building housing a year's supply of tires and another building housing enough water to put out a fire at the facility without using city supplies also are located on the property.
Humphries said the new structure was needed because the church had outgrown its previous central storehouse, an old arms manufacturing building that was built during World War II.
Neal Peterson, manager of Deseret Transportation, said he likes watching workers and volunteers grow from their service.
"Our whole mission is to help someone else," he said.
Don Johnson is director of the church's production and distribution services and oversees the bishops' storehouses as well as farms, ranches, canneries and grain storage. He said the new facility takes away the need to load and reload trucks as has been the practice for about nine years. He said reloading became necessary as refrigerated storage was located off-site after the church outgrew the old facility.
"We are more efficient in one location," he said. "We can service those needs of our poor and needy a lot better and more cost effectively in helping to care for the widow's mite."
He was referencing a New Testament parable where Jesus praises the efforts of a poor woman for giving a small coin to the church even though that was all she had.
In addition to the centralized storehouse, the church runs five other major distribution centers throughout North America. They are located in Indianapolis, Atlanta, Ontario, Calif., Portland, Ore., and Lethbridge, Canada.