After years of laboring on the production and administrative side of the LDS Church's welfare system, Lyle Cooper recently witnessed the program from the receiving end.
While visiting Atlanta, Cooper helped unload several tractor-trailers packed with food destined for inner-city folks battling poverty and hunger."It was so rewarding seeing the faces of those who'd be enjoying a good meal and benefiting from the service of others," said Cooper, who directs the Utah North Area Welfare program for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "It was a reminder that the welfare process serves real people in need."
The "process" takes another step forward this week with the re-opening of the church's Murray Cannery at 4373 S. Main Street.
A public open house is scheduled Tuesday, Oct. 17, from 3 to 8 p.m. to celebrate improvements at the 20-year-old cannery, along with the remodeled facilities at the neighboring Deseret Industries.
A dedicatory service is planned for the following day at 4 p.m. with President James E. Faust, second counselor in the Church's First Presidency, presiding. Members of the Utah North Area Presidency and the Church's Presiding Bishopric are also expected to speak.
"We've been able to do some wonderful things at the cannery to produce a higher volume of cans," said Cooper. "Our system has been streamlined, we have a new line to run cans, new continuous cookers, we've redone the floors and installed other equipment."
The cannery can now simultaneously pack several wet and dry goods, said Cooper, including peas, corn, chili, beef chunks, powdered milk, sugar, rice and several other products.
Food canned at the Murray facility is expected to be distributed to needy members worldwide, along with people living in areas ravaged by war and famine.
"We're in the process of shipping pork & beans and beef chunks to Bosnia," said Cooper.
Volunteers living in surrounding wards and stakes help with canning and packing efforts. In 1994, the Murray Cannery logged more than 25,000 hours of volunteer work - with local church welfare recipients assuming much of the load.
"Our welfare program is designed to take care of the poor and the needy existing in and out of the church," said Cooper. "One of our guiding principals is to allow people receiving some of the canned goods the opportunity to work to the extent of their abilities, allowing people to maintain their dignity."
Members and non-members alike are also invited to use the canning facility to help stock personal food storage supplies. Call 266-1460 for information.