By Laurie Turner
Oakton Stake Public Affairs Director
Over 500 members of the LDS Church attended the Saturday morning event
The Oakton Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a food drive and 5K races on Saturday November 5, 2011 at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston and collected over 5,000 lbs. of groceries for the LINK Against Hunger programs that benefits needy families in Herndon, Sterling and Ashburn, Virginia.
To celebrate the church’s 75th anniversary for its church welfare program, President Henry B. Eyring of the first presidency of the LDS Church asked all 14 million members around the world to participate in a day of service.
Oakton Stake President Scott Wheatley said the stake’s goal for their service day was “to let those around us know we love and follow Jesus Christ in all we do. What better way to convey that message to our community than by serving them? We want our community to know that because we follow Jesus Christ, we serve others.”
Oakton Stake is made up of nine wards (congregations) organized geographically in the Northern Virginia area, including Reston, Herndon, Spring Lakes (a Spanish-speaking congregation), Chantilly, Franklin, Fair Oaks, Vienna, Oakton, and Oak Marr.
The event’s theme was “Put a Lid on Hunger,” and included a 5-K run or walk, a one-mile stroll, and several 100-yard dashes for children. The cost of the event was $5 donation per person or five cans of food. All cash and food collected went directly to LINK Against Hunger programs.
Well over 500 members of the church attended the event, which raised $1,688 in cash and 2.5 tons of food. Another $1,000 worth of food will be donated to LINK from the LDS Church’s Washington DC Bishops’ Storehouse, which is a church facility that provides basic foods and essential household items to needy individuals and families.
Lisa Lombardozzi, president of LINK said, “What a machine they had going. We had trucks parked along the curb, people pulled up and unloaded their food into the trucks and headed off to register for the walk/run. We had LDS missionaries helping us put the food into boxes and we kept filling truck after truck.”
President Wheatley said the stake’s goal was to fill at least five trucks. “We hoped to overwhelm this good charity with our generous donations. We wanted them to see Christians in action as we showed up in droves with arms full of food to help the hungry. I think we achieved that goal.”
“We received more food than we could fit on our shelves,” Lombardozzi said. ‘I put our little collection box down near the registration area and figured that we’d get a little bit of money. I welcomed the crowd and estimated there were a thousand people there! I thought I’d gather up the few canned goods that came in late. By the time the event was over my little pile grew and grew. We made several trips back to my car to load up. I ended up with an SUV full of food and had to utilize another minivan, in addition to the seven truckloads of food, to cart it all back to the pantry.”
Lombardozzi was surprised that her little box for donations was full and ended up containing over $1,600 in cash.
Anthony Foy, a long time LINK member and previous Town of Herndon outstanding volunteer award winner, who helped load the trucks said, “It is humbling that all those people came together, and the sole fundraising focus was LINK. The LDS community certainly did bless our ministry.”
“Wow! What a rewarding day,” said Shon Beury, chairman of St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Herndon, and a LINK board member. “I’m so glad I was there to witness Christianity in action. How blessed we are!”
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell complimented the LDS Church’s welfare program and issued a day of service proclamation for the Commonwealth of Virginia. He said, “2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Welfare Program which has improved the lives of countless individuals in our commonwealth, these United States, and throughout the world, and which should be a model to all organizations and faiths as we work together to build a true commonwealth of opportunity.”
President Wheatley said, “To become a ‘model of service’ to other organizations and faiths, we need to become an integral part of our community by sharing what we know and what we have. This event helped us move in that direction.”
The LINK organization has been serving the community since 1972. All in all, this Saturday in Autumn became a fantastic day to help “PUT A LID ON HUNGER” for LINK!
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