On 4th Dec 2020, Bishop Les Pointer of the Telford Ward, Newcastle-under-Lyme Stake, accepted an award on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in recognition for its generous support of the Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Council. The Award was presented by Raj Mehta, Chair and founder of the Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Council, and a local town councillor.
Since Bishop Pointer's call in October 2017, he has led the ward members to work ever closer with the community and other local faith groups. He was invited to become a trustee of the Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Council in April 2020. Admittedly, before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was easier to serve the local community. Despite the pandemic, Ward members have been able to find appropriate and safe ways to continue serving the community throughout 2020. Bishop Pointer was also nominated for an Unsung Heroes Award from the Telford and Wrekin Borough Council, which he accepted on behalf of local ward members.
Along with other areas of the country, people struggled to make ends meet on reduced incomes due to being furloughed or losing their jobs. Members of the Telford Ward and the local community generously collected over £5,000 worth of food for three local groups: the Telford Food Bank, the Interfaith Emergency Food Service (Interfaith Council), and KiP@Maninplace, who assist the homeless. Bishop Pointer was also able to draw on funds from the Church’s Covid-19 Emergency Relief programme to provide additional food for the Interfaith Council children's breakfast project. This project provides breakfast (and lunch) to about 1,250 children on Saturdays to the value of £5,000. Members, including his own children and the fulltime missionaries, assist the Bishop (working alongside numerous faith groups) in sorting out the breakfast provisions every Saturday morning and delivering breakfast parcels to families who are unable to collect them.
Not only have some children in the Telford and Wrekin area been deprived of sufficient nutritious food, but their circumstances have usually meant that some do not have computers to support home-school work. Under Bishop Pointer’s coordination, the Church provided 105 decommissioned iPads from the Church’s Europe Area offices. Bishop Pointer says, “These iPads (with an estimated value of £15,000) are being distributed to vulnerable families within the Telford and Wrekin Borough who need additional at-home education assistance due to the current pandemic. This is a joint venture with the Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Council and the Telford and Wrekin Borough Council.” Bishop Pointer also explained, “The Church has also donated 22 laptops for a not-for-profit organisation set up to assist vulnerable young adults”. “During the pandemic, these laptops were loaned out to a local Chinese community to allow their children to access their schoolwork online due to the national closures of schools.”
During January and February 2020, the Telford Ward chapel was used by local civic groups, including a local theatre group, and a civic meeting for planning community events hosted by the Bishop.
Many members also participate in other community activities, including volunteering at the central Telford Foodbank, stacking and storing produce, supporting refugees and vulnerable families with clothing and food, and donating over 100 blankets and items of warm clothing to KiP@Maninplace (a local homeless organisation).
The contributions of members extended to donating 150 present-filled boxes to the International Shoe Box Appeal, going to vulnerable children worldwide.
Ward member Sister Lisa Howe and her husband Wes have been a regular driving force behind the Christmas-day meals provided at the Telford Chapel for the homeless and vulnerable in the Borough, working in conjunction with local businesses, who reduce the cost of the food and other goods they provided. Between 120-150 meals are provided every year. Before Christmas 2020 this has been a combination of 'sit in' and 'home delivered’ meals. Bishop Pointer says, 'We work in partnership with the local charity KiP@Maninplace who identify the homeless who require a delivered hot meal. We also work with the local council and other local organisations to identify lonely and vulnerable residents, and we extend an invitation to them for somewhere warm to sit, enjoy the company of others, and have a hot Christmas day meal'.
However, there is a twist to this Christmas tale – Sister Howes only has the proper use of one arm. In September and October 2020, as a gift for Lisa, her family raised funds to have a mechanical left arm fitted. Bishop Pointer says, “Lisa’s family want to help her get a ‘bionic’ arm and Ward members wanted to assist as Lisa has blessed so many lives within the Ward (and beyond). Church members have contributed over £4,000 through a multitude of activities within their families, and circles of friends, including car boot sales. By the end of December 2020, the £15,000 target was met, and Lisa is already going through the process of getting that bionic arm.”
In conclusion, Raj Mehta, Chair of the Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Council, said:
“As the Chair of the Telford and Wrekin Interfaith Council, I would like to thank the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the congregation in the Telford area for all their support in assisting vulnerable families across the borough during this past year. The generous donation of food (paid by the Church’s Emergency Fund) and the monthly donation of food by the local members have helped many struggling families during the Covid-19 crisis. The donation of iPads by the Church has also helped numerous children in being able to continue their education at home during this global pandemic and national lockdowns. I look forward to the continuation of this growing relationship in the coming months and years ahead.”
The Telford ward members indeed exhibit the teaching of the Master, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.' (Matthew 22:39)