Good things just keep happening to the Brigham Young University organizers of a project to send food to the Soviet Union.
"I never would have guessed the idea would come this far in two months," said Alan Keele, associate dean of the BYU Honors program, who initiated the program in the beginning of December.Keele said he recently received a call from an elderly woman who said she had heard him on the radio and wanted to know where to send a contribution.
"I didn't expect too much, but we received a check for $1,500," Keele said. The idea was spontaneous from the very beginning, he said. "We never had to pull teeth to get people to help and contribute."
As of Friday, the group had collected nearly $6,500, which is to be used to send food to needy residents in the Soviet Union.
The money is being sent as it is received to Gary Browning, a BYU Russian professor who is on a leave of absence while he is serving as a mission president for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Helsinki, Finland.
Keele said the distribution network that Browning uses is very efficient at ensuring that the goods go to people who need them, both members and non-members of the LDS Church.
Browning wrote Keele a letter that said, "As a result of your contribution and (LDS) Church fast-offering funds, on Feb. 18, a truck from Frankfurt will leave with food for delivery" to the Soviet Union.
There will be an equal number of food packages for LDS and non-LDS alike, Browning wrote. "It is not that people cannot get food in the USSR, but the unpredictability and waiting in long lines is very frustrating and tiring."
Keele said his initial desire was to aid all Soviet citizens.
"It's the non-Mormons I was worried about," he said. "There are so many more of them."
But the main idea is that people with families are being fed, Keele said. "We are sending a message that we care about them as people."
The message is above anything political, but it is from good will that good politics emerge, he said.
Keele said that the current Soviet crackdown on the Baltic states' desire for independence is somewhat of an obstacle.
"But we are doing the best we can to see that the people have something to eat through this winter," he said.
Browning wrote, "Providing assistance now strengthens alternate institutions that, over time, will lessen the likelihood of Soviet troops entering the Baltics again."
It's kind of like the Berlin airlift after World War II, Keele said. The people need to know that someone cares about them.
"I also think it is good for the people of Utah to feel that they can help," said Keele, who expects the program to continue as long as the Soviet people need the assistance.