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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Latter-day Saints Relief Society finds many ways to serve

Karen Spear

Because the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints’ Relief Society includes all of its women 18 years and older, it is one of the largest women’s organizations in the world, said Karen Spear, recent past president of the Stake Relief Society in the Spokane East Stake.

The mother of five has been in the Latter-day Saints Church all her life, moving through its programs: Primary for children up to 12, Young Women for girls up to 18 and now in the Relief Society.

The LDS church is divided geographically into stakes, and the stakes are divided into wards.  There are five stakes in Spokane.

The Spokane East Stake has eight wards, three of which—Bowdish, Ponderosa and Dishman-Mica—meet at the stake center, at 13608 E. 40th Ave., in Spokane Valley. 

“Our stake has 450 women, with 50 to 60 in each of the wards, plus we have one ward, Terrace View, for young single adult women aged 18 to 30.  There are three such wards in Spokane,” she said.

For four years, Karen, who attended Eastern Utah College in Price, Utah, and now works in a medical office, was stake president.  Janice Southwick is the current Spokane East Stake president, she said.

The Relief Society promotes faith and personal righteousness.  Worldwide. We study the same lessons,” she said.

“We strive to strengthen homes and families,” Karen said.  “We often help in the community, teaming up with other churches.”

The past stake humanitarian leader, Jill Woolf, visited agencies and asked about their needs and requested a wish list.  She gave the list to each ward.  The relief society in each ward took the list and chose what they would do.

The process has taught me to ask about needs and to be aware that there are plenty of ways to serve,” she said.  “We are always looking for service projects and ways to give back to the community.”

In addition, each year there is a women’s conference, which they attend.  They go into the community to find service projects.

“For example, we went to the school district and found that special needs children, such as those with cerebral palsy, need weighted vests to help them control their movements.  The weighted vests help calm them and slow their body movements,” Karen said.

So the women donated vests to Central Valley School District.

“Our ward also made faces on hundreds of tennis balls, which the children use to help with dexterity and motor skills,” she said. 

In addition, women from all wards donate nice clothing for the YWCA’s Our Sisters Closet.  They take it to the stake center at Highway 27 and 40th Ave., where they filled two big closets. 

Women in the stake who need clothing then “shop” there, before they take the clothes to Our Sisters Closet for women who are re-entering the job market, she said.

It took three vans to deliver the clothes recently, Karen said.

“It’s fun to see what we can do together for a good cause,” she commented.

At a women’s conference in February, a panel of sisters talked about how to help families study Scripture.  Stake President Gregory Mott told the women, “The love the Savior has for us defines who we are.”

Each ward is involved in community service and looks for ways to help established organizations,” Karen said.

Last August, her ward helped the Community of Christ Church on Bowdish and Broadway feed children who receive free and reduced lunches in school.  The summer food program runs through June and July, but in August children still needed meals.

That church also has a Homework Club, where women can volunteer for three hours to help tutor children.  The stake helps with that program.

She also described two projects of the Evergreen Ward as other examples of outreach:

• For four or five years, they have held a symposium with at-risk girls at Barker High School Charter School.  A guest speaker encourages girls to stay in school.  They have a brunch, at which girls learn and practice good manners.  They also learn about care of hair, nails and makeup. 

• After one woman died and left two rooms full of fabric, women in the relief society bought sheet sets and made quilt tops for 34 beds at Hope House.  The bottom sheet is used for the beds with the matching quilt and pillow covers. 

One ward had a Brown Bag Brigade and took 150 lunches to give out to men lined up for beds this winter at the House of Charity.  It also had enough for the 34 women at Hope House.

“We provide lunches for Hope House on an ongoing basis,” she said.  “For years, we have also taken turns to fix lunches for Crosswalk, so each ward does one month.”

For a Relief Society Birthday Dinner in March, leaders asked people to bring protein items to donate to Spokane Valley Partners. 

The Bishops’ Storehouse at 9423 E. Fourth Ave. distributes food purchased and produced by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints. Stake members in need can go there for produce, commodities and other food.  The storehouse often donates surplus food to Spokane Valley Partners.

Some members of the Relief Society assess needs and prepare a shopping list to supplement commodities.  Others take turns purchasing the food.  Wards donate funds and volunteers.

“The storehouse is for members and nonmembers approved by ward bishops,” she said.     

Service unites us,” Karen said.

For some, service may be cleaning the stake buildings as a way “to show Christ-like love,” she said.

For Easter, there was a “Messiah” sing-along.

For others, it might be sending a team to help the city replace gravel in a park with bark. 

“Participating in community projects, we make many new friends,” she said.

“We like to be like Jesus Christ in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and liberating captives,” she said.

I have always grown up doing acts of love as a lay Christian,” she said.  “I spend time helping my husband with books for his business of detailing cars.

“Part of being like our Savior is to show our love for our Savior by our actions.  It’s easy to be wrapped up in monetary things.  What brings true happiness is service to others,” she said.

Members fast once a month and donate money to help people with different projects.

Karen, who has been in Spokane 30 years, is also a supporter of LDS camps at Camp Naborlee on Lake Roosevelt.

“It’s all volunteer run, so we do cleanup projects and build simple structures,” she said.  “It is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.”

The website,, lists humanitarian projects world wide, such as a Red Cross team in Salt Lake City.

“It encourages us to be involved in our communities,” Karen said.  “The same instruction is true worldwide.”

The East Spokane Stake Center building has many classrooms and many pictures of Christ. 

Ward meetings on Sundays last three hours.  The first hour is for sacraments.  The second hour is Sunday school with lessons and singing, and the third hour is divided into the groups—the women’s relief society, the men’s priesthood, the men’s youth groups, the women’s youth group and the children’s group.

For information, call 230-9921 or email

Copyright © June 2014 - The Fig Tree