Shared from the 2/11/2018 Faith eEdition


LDS Church provides 17 tons of coats, blankets


Peter C. Hightower volunteers for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

There’s an overused adage that any Texan knows well: “If you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes.” This past year has been particularly extreme with Texas residents dealing with everything from record-breaking heat to devastating hurricanes and flooding and even actual snow.

When weather forecasters predicted an unusually cold winter for the region, most residents simply shrugged off the warnings. However, for the staff at the local homeless shelter Haven for Hope and San Antonio’s Faith-Based Initiative, the warning held a certain dread.

Rev. Ann Helmke, who heads the city’s Faith-Based Initiative, recognized that the city’s homeless population would be left especially vulnerable this winter if the predictions turned out to be even half true. After the first sub-freezing cold front swept the city in November, she decided to put out an emergency need request through the still nascent network of faith-based groups she was cultivating. “I wanted to be very clear in my request, that’s why we specifically requested blankets, hats, winter coats and any other warm clothing that the community could spare. I knew that those in our care would be in dire need and at the time, we weren’t prepared to meet the demand,” she said.

The emergency need request was broadcast to the community through news outlets, social media and a newly established SMS text alert that anyone can subscribe to by texting “compassion” to 55000. The Faith-Based Initiative uses the handle @CompassionNet1 on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Elder Carlos Villarreal, the Area Authority for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints who lives in San Antonio, learned of the need request when several Church members asked him if the Church headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, might be able to provide additional support. Nobody at Faith-Based Initiative or Haven for Hope imagined what would be en route to their warehouse in just a few days. The Church had sent an entire 50-foot tractor-trailer full of blankets, winter coats and warm clothing from their disaster relief warehouse.

On the day of the delivery, Celeste Eggert, Haven’s chief development officer, gathered at the warehouse with Helmke and several local representatives from the Church. “I’m just delighted,” Eggert said. “I know it will improve so many lives this winter. Not just among our residents, but also the outreach we’ll be able to do in the community with it.”

The total shipment contained four pallets of new winter blankets, two pallets of shoes, 300 bales of winter coats and jackets, 10 bales of assorted youth clothing and 10 bales of adult clothing — each bale weighing about 100 pounds. The total shipment weight was more than 35,000 pounds.

President Lisle Updike, who presides over the La Cantera Stake of the Church (an LDS stake oversees approximately eight to 12 congregations called wards), praised Eggert and Haven’s mission, saying the agency’s model instills hope in those it helps “by showing love and compassion but also by raising expectations of what they can do for themselves.

“I think if Christ ever did come to San Antonio, you wouldn’t find him in a boardroom or a meeting somewhere but out here in your courtyard ministering to these same people,” Updike said.

Peter Hightower is a full-time Border Patrol agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and a volunteer with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

See this article in the e-Edition Here