Buster Summerhays lives in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. He was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah. He served a mission in Ft. lauderdale Florida 2004-06. He has been married for 8 years, no children yet. He is a former bishop.
Thanks Bishop, but now what?
As a newly called bishop in the inner city of Salt Lake, there were a lot of things I didn’t know, but this was one of the questions that worried me the most. I felt that if I gave a member a Bishop’s Order for Commodities (food and supplies, clothing, household goods or an authorization for services) that I should be able to let them know what happens when they go to redeem it. I found that some members were well versed with the Church’s Welfare Resource program, while others had no idea.
Visiting the Bishop’s Storehouse
I took a few days off of work my first week as bishop and visited Welfare Square in Salt Lake City, starting with the Bishop’s Storehouse. I walked in and told the shift coordinator that I was a recently called bishop and wanted to see what my members will experience when they come to turn in their order. The brother in charge had me first view a PowerPoint that volunteers review before they serve. Although I can’t remember everything I learned, there is one point that stood out to me. It was a small point, but it made a big impact on me. They mentioned that volunteers are to help push the cart around the storehouse and the recipient are to put the goods into their cart. This was to help foster self-reliance. This left such an impression upon me because it taught me that self-reliance does not always mean applying for x number of jobs per week; it could start as simple as putting your own groceries in a cart.
The next activity was a tour of the storehouse. They showed me how all of the food was organized on the shelves in the same order as it was on the Bishop’s order form. There was even a particular way recipients and volunteers are to walk up and down the aisles. This reinforced to me the need for order in our lives. Often times members that are looking for assistance when they find their lives in chaos; the order found at the storehouse was an effective example of how our lives can have order.
The last thing I did was meet the shift coordinator. I asked him the same questions I asked the coordinators at all of the other locations, which was, “If you had a microphone and could speak to all of the bishops in your boundaries, what would you say?” He offered a few good tips. First, to go back to my office and review the printed dates on the bottom of my orders. He said that often times bishops are writing requests on outdated forms, and that creates a sticky spot for them when they no longer offer that item and have to find a substitute. The second item of value was that it was ok to have members volunteer service hours before receiving their order, all I had to do was make a note at the bottom stating how many hours of service needed to be fulfilled before the order was issued.
My next visit was to Deseret Industries. While there I did the same thing; I asked the store manager what a member could expect when they were coming to fulfill an order that I had completed. He walked me around the store and showed me items they offered, including those that were new or could be requested new, such as jackets. I was amazed at everything they offered! I then moved on to the skills training that the DI offers. They have a wonderful training program to help individuals learn the skills necessary to gain employment. They train for many different skills, ranging from how to understand a schedule, communicating with your manager and co workers to how to drive a forklift or count change back from a cash register. It truly was amazing. They were teaching many skills that most would take for granted. Had I not known about these services, I may have pushed my ward members beyond their skill level without realizing it.
I then worked my way over to the employment office and learned about the courses and trainings they offered. When I talked with one of the missionaries there I asked my question about what they wished everyone knew about the employment center. Their response was: it’s not just for unemployed people! I had been in many meetings where it was suggested to have the ward employment specialists work with individuals who may be “under employed,” but it didn’t click until then. At the time they even had a networking meeting at LDS Business College for professionals who were underemployed. It was amazing to hear about ldsjobs.org and the many opportunities it offers. You make a profile similar to other job searching databases, but in this case your profile needs to reach 90% complete in order for employers to be able to see it.
I realize that many leaders are a great distance from their assigned Church welfare facilities. Nevertheless, even if it is a long drive you will benefit from your experience. It would be a great focus for a stake bishopric meeting or a simple field trip for the ward council. Any local Church leader would benefit from a visit to these resources; take a tour and get the experience members will have visiting these places. Do not just be the leader that hands over a piece of paper. Be the leader that helps guide their members to self-sufficiency, that boosts their self-confidence and their self-worth. How grateful I am for those that volunteer their time at Welfare Square. A bishop’s load is lessened because of their sacrifices.