Two Churches United to Serve

Jun 16, 2020 | by Amy Warren

The morning started well before sunrise, with volunteers and Salvation Army staff moving, sorting, and stacking boxes in the parking lot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Independence, Mo. Hundreds of boxes of dried goods, fresh produce, milk, and frozen meat were ready to go. To be handed out to anyone in need. Anyone impacted by the COVID-19 crisis.

Major Toni Dorrell was standing nearby a line of cars, stretching from the church’s parking lot, down the block, and around a second corner when she saw one woman, sitting in her car, with tears streaming down her face.

“As I walked up to a car, the lady started crying. She proceeded to tell me that she always told people that if she won the lottery, The Salvation Army was going to be her charity of choice. I told her that we could be her charity of choice even without a million dollars, and we were happy for that,” Major Dorrell said.

As the line advanced, the woman started driving and Major Dorrell walked alongside her car.

“I asked her if I could pray with her, and I walked alongside her car as she inched up along in line to get her boxes and said a blessing on her. It was just a sweet moment. You walk up to someone and just expect to exchange a greeting and it’s a moment when they really need something more than that.”

With millions in the country still struggling in the face of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, The Salvation Army and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints partnered to bring something more to people here in Kansas City.

As part of a national gift from The Church of Jesus Christ headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, The Salvation Army choose multiple communities across the country to do major large-scale food box distributions. In a moment of crisis, a food box can mean security in uncertain times.

“It means everything to them. It’ll be able to take care of families potentially for weeks,” said Elder Dennis Cato, president of Latter-Day Saints’ Stake in Independence. “We’ve done so many other things with The Salvation Army whether it’s been a disaster, they’ve called upon us and we’ve helped them in other ways. This is just a marvelous opportunity to partner with them.”

Here in Kansas City, the process required two days of hard work. First, dozens of volunteers descended on The Salvation Army warehouse to pack 850 boxes of pantry and dry goods items.

“We're absolutely overwhelmed and grateful for so many people to take time out of their day to help people they don't know. We couldn't do this alone,” said Jennifer Stepp, Salvation Army Program Manager.

Then on Friday, June 12, dozens of more volunteers helped load the boxes of food into cars as people drove through the church’s parking lot. The mid-morning sun was sweltering, but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm for the work.

“As missionaries, our main purpose is to give our time and serve the community on a local level. It feels really good to give back and do something to help right now,” LDS Missionary Sister Sarah Winder said.

For some of the Latter-Day Saints, serving the Kansas City community was part of a sudden change of plans which included arriving in the Midwest only weeks before from international missions. No matter where they are in the world, the missionaries have one goal in mind.

“We’re here to help, and it’s a blessing to be able to do so. We’re really the lucky ones to be able to help.” Elder Jacob Schickendanz said.

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