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Karen Lake
Madeline Hannah, 16, and Paige Sanford, 16, from Mission Viejo, Calif., pose Oct. 11 in front of a table overflowing with holiday bags for the less fortunate in Orange County, Calif.

ORANGE COUNTY, Calif. — After a successful food drive in August, South County Outreach in Orange County, Calif., asked youths from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help on a holiday project for the less fortunate. On Oct. 11, 97 members of the LDS Church converged on the SCO warehouse to package 271 holiday food bags.

The bags consisted of stuffing mix, yams or potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, ingredients for pumpkin pie and donated turkeys provided by Mission Hospital. South County Outreach wants hungry families in Orange County to enjoy a nice holiday meal together.

In the planning stages, the LDS youth leaders were a little worried that the facility couldn’t handle so many young people, but Nora Dopudja, SCO director of operations, said it would work.

The night of the event, the warehouse at first did seem chaotic with so much activity: some Mormon youths were carrying heavy boxes from the storage warehouse, others were collecting food from the shelves, leaders were directing traffic and many youths were bagging food into paper grocery bags on the massive tables in the middle of the warehouse.

After the 271 bags were complete, Dopudja climbed on a tall rolling ladder to tell her personal story to the attentive standing young people. She told the youth that her life is so much happier now that she is making a difference in others' lives.

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Dopudja explained that many of the working poor really struggle in South County because rent is so high. She said that one out of six children in Orange County go to bed hungry.

Cindy LeSueur, a Young Women activities specialist for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said, “I knew that the event was a success when Jordan Gold, one of our LDS youth, gave the closing prayer and said, ‘Please bless those less fortunate and thank you so much that we never go to bed hungry.’ I knew at that moment — they got it."

Karen Lake is the director of public relations for the Santa Margarita California Stake.