The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Dear Karen, Just a quick note to thank you for letting us be a part of this special humanitarian service effort you are embarked upon.
Your presentation at last Saturdays women’s conference was beautifully rendered and opened the hearts and understanding of many.
I would like to stay in touch and if there is anything I can do to help you, just let me know.Warm Regards, Sandi Sears
Faith in Christ Leads to Pillows of Love for Wounded TroopsNews Release By Jeff Schrade, Director of Public Affairs Fredericksburg Virginia Stake Cell: (202)870-3277
Fredericksburg, VA – Over 200 local women came together on Saturday to sew pillowcases and stuff over 1,000 pillows, and then box them for shipment to wounded service members in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany. The women, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were working in conjunction the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project.
“The pillows are really a personal message to the troops that says, ‘I am here, depend on me for anything and not just now, but for as long as you need me.’ It is a soft whisper of encouragement,” said Karen Grimord, a Stafford resident who founded the Landstuhl Hospital Care Project in 2004. “It is amazing to see the expressions on our wounded warriors faces when they realize the pillows, toiletries and clothing are free. The only thing that comes close is a three-year old on Christmas morning.”
The Landstuhl hospital, located in Germany, treats the majority of serious casualties from the Iraq and Afghanistan, and is the largest American hospital outside of the United States.
“We are here today to provide this service because of the love of Christ – love beyond measure. Our faith in him leads us to help others,” said LaRene Olbeter, as she stood in a bright yellow “Mormon Helping Hands” t-shirt. Olbeter is president of the church’s Relief Society program in the Fredericksburg area.
Saturday’s effort touched Jennie Pugmire of Fredericksburg, a church member who volunteered to help.
“In 2002 my husband Jeff was the sole survivor of a booby-trapped ammo dump in Afghanistan. Four of his buddies were killed that day. My husband lost his sight in one
eye, lost his hearing in one ear, dislocated his shoulders, and his body is still filled with shrapnel that sometimes still comes to the surface of his skin. When I heard today about men leaving the battlefield with nothing more than what they have on, it just hit me hard and I had to cry. It’s been wonderful to give something back to those who have given so much,” Pugmire said.
The Landstuhl Hospital Care Project was found in 2004 after Grimord visited her daughter and son-in-law in Germany. While there she spent time at the Army’s hospital and discovered a need for videos and DVD’s.
“Every month Landstuhl handles about 37,000 out-patient visits, 500 operations and 100 births for American military members and their families,” said Grimord, a former military contractor who saw action in Bosnia. “We started with shipments of videos and DVD’s. After sending that first shipment of 485 movies, I asked the Chaplin’s office what more was needed, and he suggested our troops could use some sweat pants and shirts. What was to be one shipment turned into another and another.”
It is now a nationwide effort that earned the “seal of excellence” from the Independent Charities of America (ICA). Of the more than one million charities operating in the United States today, it is estimated that fewer than 50,000, or 5 percent, meet or exceed the ICA’s standards, and, of those, fewer than 2,000 have been awarded its seal of approval.
“Last week we spent over a $1,000 a day in shipping out a variety of material. Those costs were picked up by BAE Systems and they will be paying for the shipments from today’s effort. We cannot thank them, or these local Mormon women, enough,” Grimord said. “Of course, we are always looking for help from others.”
The pillow project is the third major humanitarian project that Olbetter has undertaken since being asked last year to lead the local LDS Church’s multi-county Relief Society program.
“Last year we began by sewing 20 quilts for children in need. We followed that by providing over 100 ‘comfort kits’ for traumatized child abuse victims who are tenderly interviewed and examined at the wonderful, but sadly needed, Safe Harbor Child Advocacy Center in Fredericksburg,” Olbetter said.
The Relief Society is a philanthropic and educational women’s organization and an official auxiliary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), unofficial known as the Mormon Church. The Relief Society was founded in 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois, and today has approximately 6 million members in over 170 countries and territories.
“Jesus Christ instructed all of us to love one another. The Relief Society program helps the women of our church put that instruction into action. We plan on a doing a lot more of that here in the coming years,” said Mike Kitchens, who serves as presiding officer of the LDS Church’s Fredericksburg Virginia Stake. The Fredericksburg Stake, which is similar to a diocese, has 4,600 members.