Mormon welfare services: Another day, another D.I.

Published: Tuesday, June 7 2011 11:52 p.m. MDT

Leola Zuhars and Heber Bredsguard browse the new Deseret Industries store during an open house Tuesday evening.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

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SALT LAKE CITY — Another day, another D.I.

But to those needing employment training, purchasing on shoestring budgets or wanting to donate to help others, the opening of another Deseret Industries store is anything but routine.

The D.I., as it is affectionately called by locals, is just one of three Mormon welfare operations housed in the new Sugarhouse Utah Welfare Center, which The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opening this week.

Located at 724 E. 2100 South, the 65,000-square-foot facility features not only the new thrift store but also LDS Employment and LDS Family Services centers. It sits a half-dozen blocks northwest of the existing, three-story Sugarhouse D.I. at 2234 S. Highland Dr., a neighborhood fixture having survived seven-plus decades and one major fire before its closure last weekend.

"It's a thrift store — and a whole lot more," said Richard W. Ebert Jr., the LDS Church's director of Deseret Industries, during the welfare service center's open house Tuesday evening.

The event showcased not only the donation dock and retail area regularly frequented by the public but also the massive processing area, humanitarian services room, employment center and family services area.

"Most people only ever see two places — the docks and the sales floor," said David Toone, the field group manager overseeing nine D.I. stores along the Wasatch Front.

Following Tuesday's open house, the facility will be dedicated tonight (WEDNESDAY) by President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the church's First Presidency, with a community ribbon-cutting scheduled just prior to the facility's 10 a.m. Thursday grand opening.

President Eyring's involvement is fitting, given his April general conference address on the 75-year history of the LDS Church's welfare program.

The facility will provide the three-fold welfare services for LDS priesthood leaders in some 40 local Mormon stakes. Similar to a diocese in other faiths, a stake is comprised of a handful of local congregations called wards and branches.

Deseret Industries boasts 43 stores in seven western states — nearly half in Utah and the rest in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The church's most public welfare operation combines a nonprofit thrift store with temporary employment, vocational rehabilitation, employment training both on the job and partnering with local community colleges and tech centers and drop-off locations for tax-deductible donations of household goods and clothing in good condition.

Ebert admits the extensive on- and off-site job training and certification provided the short-term D.I. employees makes for "an odd business model," given they trained to go work somewhere else.

Annual estimates for the new Sugarhouse D.I. include 180 associates (training employees) enrolled, 200,000 shoppers, 220,00 donors, 800 community partnerships and 3,000 volunteer hours donated.

But the big number — 10 million — represents the projected number of items to be processed annually at the Sugarhouse D.I. Not all will reach the sales floor — Deseret Industries also partners with local community agencies to help provide clothing and household items and forwards similar products for use in LDS humanitarian efforts.

Managed and operated by local church-service missionaries, the LDS Employment Resource Center helps church members become self-reliant through job placement, career development and small-business management.

Officials project 2,000 people to be served annually here, with 7,800 missionary and volunteer hours donated.

And the facility's LDS Family Services Center house a branch of the Salt Lake Office of LDS Family Services, with the agency providing consultation, counseling and adoption services.

The agency is managed and operated by a staff of licensed professional therapists and a board-certified psychiatrist.

Toone swept a gesturing hand around the new Sugarhouse Welfare Services Center and said, "This is all a training facility — the Lord really doesn't need a thrift store.

Then he added while holding a forefinger and thing a fraction of an inch apart: "It's just this much of business. It's to help the rest get done."

EMAIL: taylor@desnews.com

LDS Welfare Services fact sheet — 2010

Days of labor donated to church welfare services — 777,381

Employment and training placements — 168,713

Total number of

storehouses — 143

Home storage centers — 102

Production projects — 54

Processing facilities — 23

Storage and distribution facilities — 36

Employment resource centers — 326

Deseret Industries thrift stores — 43

LDS Family Services offices — 79

Number of missionaries serving in LDS Welfare Services — 8,583LDS Welfare Services

fact sheet — 2010

Days of labor donated to church welfare services 777,381

Employment and

training placements168,713

Total number of storehouses143

Home storage centers102

Production projects54

Processing facilities23

Storage and distribution facilities36

Employment resource centers326

Deseret Industries thrift stores43

LDS Family Services offices79

Number of missionaries serving

in LDS Welfare Services8,583

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