Shortly after she was called to serve as ward Relief Society President in December 2012, Sister Louise Giboin of the Edinburgh Ward, Edinburgh Scotland Stake, felt impressed to organize a Relief Society charity committee. This she did with the approval of her bishop, and two sisters who were already involved with charity work were asked to serve on it, along with several other sisters, including newer members.
The committee meets once or twice a month, depending on the number of activities it is involved in, and over the past two years has supported several different charities. Their work is continuing to grow as they look for new projects that will benefit from their help.
The local Lions Club, which raises money for children both locally and in Africa, was an early beneficiary. For two years the sisters have collected Easter eggs and selection boxes which the club then passes on to other charities or local deprived children.
During the past two summers, the whole ward has been invited to act as stewards at an equestrian event organised by The Lions Club at Dalmeny House, one of Scotland’s stately homes, where members have taken on a variety of roles such as tallying up scores, replacing poles, manning the car park and directing traffic. Their free help means that money saved on employing people can go direct to the charities in need of the funds.
The committee also works closely with Children 1st (formerly the RSPCC). Volunteer work includes collecting money for the charity at international rugby games held at the Murrayfield Stadium in Edinburgh, but the Relief Society sisters also wanted to help local deprived children at Christmas. For the past two years they have collected and wrapped Christmas gifts which Santa then hands out at a party they organise especially for the children.
“I cannot begin to express the effect this had on the children,” Sister Giboin remarked. “It was obvious that for many of them our gift might be the only one they would get on Christmas morning. We had a lot of food left and we invited the parents to take what they wished. Not a thing was left as grateful families filled bags and boxes with goodies.”
Any toys left over from these events is delivered to Edinburgh’s Royal Hospital for Sick Children by the ward’s older Primary children.
Last year the committee made dresses for African little girls for the first time, and in April this year joined forces with members of a local girls’ school to repeat the activity. Some students from the school are visiting Malawi in September and are planning on taking dresses with them. The girls have attended committee meetings and have been actively involved in organising the event.
“This is an exciting new venture for us,” Sister Giboin explained. “We are using it as one of our outreach days (we try for four a year) and we ask the sisters to invite friends. I have found that this activity attracts interest from many people, more than any other I've known.”
Other projects include offering the church building to a local deaf group for their annual AGM and providing a creche for the children while their parents attend the meeting; operating a Bishops Store which members contribute to, so that there is emergency aid available when it is required; acting as stewards at a sponsored walk in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Centres; and there are plans to help deep clean a local care home once or twice a year.
“I have probably found the work of the charity committee to be one of the most fulfilling things I do, in my calling as Relief Society President,” Sister Giboin said. “The spirit is always there and we always leave our meetings feeling uplifted and grateful for the gospel.”