LDS Church says pandemic response is its largest humanitarian effort ever

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Health care worker and premature infant with protective visor manufactured by a 3D printer, paid for by Latter-day Saint Charities.

Truckloads of food and millions of masks to help communities grappling with the coronavirus have added up to what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Tuesday called the largest humanitarian effort in its history.

“This is part of our DNA,” Presiding Bishop Gérald Caussé, the ecclesiastical leader who oversees the Utah-based faith’s vast financial, real estate, investment and charitable operations, said in a new video that highlights the church’s COVID-19 response. “We go and find those that are in need and try to help them, whether it is in our own community or faraway in other countries.”

In an accompanying news release, the church said it has donated to 630 projects in more than 130 countries. The aid has included food donations and millions of masks to medical workers, government organizations, the military and others.

Fifteen truckloads of groceries and other goods have been sent every week to food banks and other charitable organizations in the United States and Canada over the past several months, the release said. Each truckload in these charity convoys can feed up to 1,400 people for about a week.

The shipments brought critical supplies at a critical moment to New Jersey, for instance.

“This support comes to us at a time when it’s needed most, especially as food donations have declined and the need for assistance has spiked,” Carlos Rodriguez, president and CEO of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, told TAPinto.net, an online news operation. “Without contributions like this, we could not do what we do to feed so many food insecure people throughout the state.”

(Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) A Project Protect organizer gives clinical face mask kits to a volunteer at the church’s Deseret Industries location in Murray in mid-April 2020.

Latter-day Saint Charities, the faith’s humanitarian arm, teamed up with University of Utah Health and Intermountain Healthcare on Project Protect to sew and distribute nearly 6 million medical-grade masks for health care workers in Utah in six weeks, topping the initiative’s already ambitious goal of crafting 5 million masks in five weeks.

Elsewhere, for example, Latter-day Saint Charities, headed by Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the women’s Relief Society general presidency, delivered 5,000 washable face masks and other supplies recently to an emergency disaster training center in Pasig City, Philippines. The church’s Beehive Clothing operation in the nation aimed to produce 400,000 masks overall by July.

“At first glance, you would think a global pandemic would make ministering [to others] harder, but in fact it has simply brought out our creativity in new ways,” Eubank said at a Brigham Young University Women’s Conference in May. Doing “something extraordinary is not going to be stopped by a little social distancing.”

The church’s relief efforts financed and partnered in the production of more than 9,000 face shields — using 3D printers — for medical workers, first responders and patients (including a newborn) in Spain.

Latter-day Saint Charities also united with the Barzani Charity Foundation to distribute 2,000 food parcels this week to a Syrian-Kurdish refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region’s Sulaimani province, the Kurdistan 24 broadcast news station reported, as the area struggles with the pandemic’s economic impact.

The church’s release Tuesday did not give any dollar figures, although Caussé announced in April that the denomination had donated a total of $5.5 million in cash to help five national charities with their coronavirus relief efforts.

The church has not stated how much, if any, of its “rainy day” funds — pegged before the crisis at a reported $100 billion — have been spent on outreach during the pandemic.

In February, Utah’s predominant faith reported that donations by Latter-day Saint Charities represent “only a small part” of the church’s overall humanitarian and welfare expenditures, which amount to nearly $1 billion a year.