Latter-day Saint Charities upped its game for COVID-19, adding more than 1,000 projects in 151 countries

2020 report shows church’s humanitarian arm brought masks, food, water, wheelchairs, vaccines and vision care to millions of people across the globe.

As the world shut down in 2020 to battle the COVID-19 global pandemic, Latter-day Saint Charities amped up its humanitarian game plan.

With the support of partners and donors, the humanitarian arm of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints added some 1,031 projects in 151 countries and territories to its already extensive aid initiatives, according to its annual report, released Friday.

Its efforts included providing:

• Clean water to 593,025 people in 23 countries and territories.

• Food to 357,378 people in 18 countries and territories.

• Maternal and newborn care to 16,473 people in nine countries and territories.

(/Ernest Randriarimalala | Photo courtesy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and WaterAid Toky, 7, and his friends wash their hands at the sanitation block in Madagascar. In 2020, Latter-day Saint Charities provided funding to help support 1.8 million refugees, internally displaced people and host community members in 39 countries with emergency water, shelter, water, sanitation and health support.

• Vision care to 401,548 people in 17 countries and territories.

• Wheelchairs to 17,381 people in 16 countries and territories.

“[We] truly seek to live the first and second great commandments,” church President Russell M. Nelson said in a news release. “When we love God with all our hearts, he turns our hearts to the well-being of others in a beautiful, virtuous cycle.”

Latter-day Saint Charities reported undertaking more than 3,600 total projects in 160 countries during the year.

In addition to its global efforts in 2020, the Utah-based faith sent over 800 truckloads of food to 380 food banks, homeless shelters and charitable agencies throughout the U.S. Church leaders say that COVID-19 spurred the largest humanitarian relief effort in the faith’s history.

For example, the church’s charity donated food, water, fuel, personal protective equipment, cleaning and household products, and medical supplies to the Navajo Nation as it faced the coronavirus.

Latter-day Saint Charities also partnered with the Black 14 Philanthropy, the report said, “to bring 180 tons of food to nine cities throughout the United States to help people in need.”

The Black 14 Philanthropy was founded in 2019 by 11 surviving former members of the 1969 University of Wyoming football team. Back then, these players were removed from the team for suggesting a peaceful protest against the LDS Church’s then-priesthood-temple ban on Blacks in advance of a game against church-owned Brigham Young University.

(Mead Gruver | AP file photo) This Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019, photo shows part of an alleyway mural in downtown Laramie, Wyo., that honors the Black 14. The Black 14 were Black athletes dismissed from the University of Wyoming football team in 1969 for seeking to protest racism by wearing black armbands in a game against Brigham Young University. Latter-day Saint Charities teamed up with surviving members of the Black 14 to bring 180 tons of food to nine U.S. cities.

“Latter-day Saint Charities was pleased to partner with the Black 14 Philanthropy,” the report said, “not only to serve those in need but to join together in an effort to heal the hurts of the past.”

The church also helped to organize one of the largest volunteer efforts in Utah since the 2002 Winter Olympics, mobilizing a force of 57,000-plus volunteers to sew more than 6 million medical-grade masks.

(File 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. The mask-making effort in Utah produced more than 6 million face coverings.

The church’s humanitarian outreach became a touchy topic after a December 2019 “whistleblower” complaint accused the faith of amassing a $100 billion “rainy day” fund from contributions intended for — but never spent on — charity.

On Tuesday, James Huntsman, a brother of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, sued the church, accusing it of fraud for not using its investments for charity. He is seeking to recover millions of dollars in tithing.

Since its 1985 birth, Latter-day Saint Charities and its affiliates have provided more than $2.5 billion worth of assistance in 199 countries and territories.