As part of the ongoing development of a close working relationship between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Mormon) and the Greater Houston and Central Texas American Heart Association (AHA), representatives met to tour the area LDS welfare complex on Hafer Road in north Houston. The tour included an LDS chapel, bishops’ storehouse and peanut butter cannery.
Jan Chappell, Houston Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church, welcomed Shelly Millwee, Senior Director of Communications and Margaret Howard, Senior Director of Community Health for AHA. “We recognize the importance of our members serving in the community and forging relations with well-established organizations to work for the benefit of our cities and states,” Chappell said.
“We had visited with (AHA) earlier in the year to see how we could work together on community service projects and they were very interested,” Chappell continued. “We wanted to go a step further and have them understand who we are and why we are interested in helping those in need – so we invited them to visit our welfare complex. The value of the church [chapel] visit was that they had never been in one before and they were curious to see what one of our buildings looked like inside. We wanted them to see the gym as a work area and that all buildings have one…as they wandered around they were visualizing big work projects or places to do presentations,” she said.
Howard agreed with the similar focus of both groups on volunteering for the benefit of members of the community. “The mission of the American Heart Association is to build lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. We value partners like the LDS community,” she said.
Millwee and Howard were given a tour of the bishops’ storehouse by manager Allan Williams. The storehouse is a place where those in need can go to obtain food and other supplies at the recommendation of their bishop. Food and supplies from the bishops’ storehouse can also be sent to those around the world affected by natural disasters, wars, or economic crises at a moment’s notice.
Peanut butter cannery manager Peter Polis then provided a tour of the cannery, one of 12 food processing facilities for the LDS Church’s worldwide welfare system. These facilities are designed to provide basic commodities for those in need. The Houston facility is the only peanut butter production facility in the church’s welfare network. Howard and Millwee were fascinated with the operation and that nearly 1 million jars are produced with over half going to humanitarian needs outside the church, including the Houston Food Bank. Plans are in the works to increase production next year.
Mutual enthusiasm for volunteerism and service was apparent as the visit ended. AHA’s Millwee summarized, “As the nation’s oldest and largest volunteer-led organization, the American Heart Association shares a passion for serving the community in which we live, work, play and pray.”
“We appreciated the guided tour and opportunity to learn more about the LDS Church. I personally took away a deeper understanding of parishioners’ core values, which will help us better tailor the volunteer experience,” said Millwee.
Linda Talbot contributed to this article.