Sandy • Seeing Lorina Ruth now, there's no indication of the crisis she faced several months ago. The single mother of three had been laid off and, without a high school diploma, her needs were great but her work options were few.
A year and a half ago, Ruth got a referral from her bishop in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to begin training with Deseret Industries (DI). On Wednesday, she radiated confidence and hope for the future as she helped ready a new thrift store at 825 E. 9400 South in Sandy. It opens for shoppers at 10 a.m. Thursday.
"The DI is wonderful; it gives you a lot of opportunity," said Ruth, 33. For one thing, she's been able to finish high school. And as a lead associate in "small as-is processing," she's gained management skills and also helps sort and package products for resale.
Deseret Industries turns 75 this year, and the thrift store/work skills combo has grown with the times. Sandy's 58,656-square-foot facility features 27,500 square feet of retail space sandwiched between an LDS Employment Resource Center and LDS Family Services.
The Sandy site will employ nine job-coach trainers who can train 140 employees at a time and more than 300 annually, according to a church fact sheet. The Employment Resource Center aims to place 2,400 people into jobs each year, and licensed therapists will work on the Family Services side to serve people in south Salt Lake County.
Launched in 1938 on the heels of the Great Depression, the Mormon "welfare" program patterned its first Salt Lake City store after Goodwill Industries in Los Angeles. There are now 42 DIs throughout Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington. About half are in Utah.
"It's a skills-training program with a thrift store wrapped around it," said Leland Hardy, director of Deseret Industries and Employment Resource Services.
"Our whole goal is to say you can become self-reliant. Let's get you to that point and help you find the job of your dreams, the place you can flourish," Hardy said, celebrating the days when associates "graduate" by landing jobs beyond the DI's walls.
In addition to that core principle, the DI also gives LDS leaders a way to acquire goods for members in need, provides volunteers opportunities, recycles clothing and other items to aid people at home and abroad, and offers clean and affordable shopping.
The Sandy DI is stocked with 40,000 clothing items and countless other fun finds, said Merchandising Manager Lisa Leavitt. Store hours are Mondays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Tuesdays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Aug. 12, 1938 • After studying Goodwill Industries' operation in Los Angeles, the first Deseret Industries plant opens in downtown Salt Lake City.
Sept. 1, 1938 • Retail sales begin at the first Deseret Industries thrift store in downtown Salt Lake City.
1939 • Los Angeles Mormons launch a similar "Latter-day Saint Industries of Southern California."
1940 • DI operations move to larger digs in Sugar House.
1948 • The decade-old DI has six stores, two in Salt Lake City, one each in Ogden, Logan, Tooele and Los Angeles.
1954 • DI expands into rag-rug manufacturing.
1957 • The LDS Church acquires a woolen mill to supply blankets to the faith's storehouses.
1960s • DI gains federal "sheltered workshop" status, expanding the trend to hire workers with disabilities.
1980s • DI begins focusing on giving workers job skills for private industry.
2000s • DI continues to expand its reach with its more than 40 retail outlets scattered in seven states.
Source: Deseret Industries at Fifty, July 1988 Ensign magazine