Bishop’s Storehouse

When I first moved into this stake many years ago, they had a welfare farm. I remember going a number of times to fill various assignments: moving rocks, weeding, cutting up fallen trees with chainsaws. But the stake got rid of the farm a long time ago.

We do have a bishop’s storehouse in our area, and somehow I’ve gone all these years without managing to fill an assignment there, until this evening. The bishop called me last night with a last minute assignment, and I was happy for the opportunity. I went straight from the train (after stopping at Culvers for a salad for dinner, changing from my suit into jeans in the bathroom). It was a pretty long drive, but I finally arrived. It’s in a non-descript warehouse building at the foot of a municipal water tower in Naperville, Illinois.

Since I was coming from the City, I arrived about a half-hour after others, and I entered to a hive of activity. I would guess there were about 30 people there, most from either my ward or the singles branch, divided into two person teams. You pull a completed order form, and you go down the form and pull the food items from the shelves–a sort of compact grocery store with very basic items. They have canned goods, spices, powdered items, flour, sugar, pastas, cereal, toiletry items, vegetables, fruit, frozen meat. (We didn’t have to deal with milk or eggs; those items would be added at the last minute tomorrow morning before the trucks go out.) I was only there a little over an hour; with so many people helping, the work went quickly.

One team consisted of a sister from my ward and her primary-aged daughter, Heather. Heather had been learning about feeding the poor at school, and her mom told her “We do that at our church, too,” and Heather wanted to be a part of that. So they were a team filling orders together, and I could tell she was having a great old time.

The place is run by a senior couple who are part-time service missionaries. They fill orders every Tuesday and Wednesday and every other Saturday. Trucks then take the orders to various stake centers in the area, where they are further distributed to the families who need them.

I was impressed at the immense organization of the place. They’ve got this thing down to a science.

On the way out they had a little snack for the workers of sliced fruit, and we were invited to take some Panera bread with us, which was a nice gesture.

I honestly had a great time. In fact, I think that was just about my favorite church service experience. Especially during this recession, I thought of all the families who needed those food orders so desperately, and it felt wonderful to be even a small part in the chain that made those food orders possible.

I’ll take working at the bishop’s storehouse over attending yet another meaningless church meeting any day of the week!


  1. Oh yes. When I lived in LA, and if I was feeling a little low, and the Dodger’s weren’t playing at home, I would drive to the church cannery and work an evening. I miss that.

  2. I’ve gone all this time without filling an assignment, too — but this Friday I get to help can honey (the church archives are closed, I’m out of work, and I can volunteer even though I’ll be walking a few miles to get there and back). The “invitation” came with the notice that because this is a project to can for the Bishops’ Storehouses, no honey will be available for sale — usually the cannery lets you buy a certain amount of whatever you work on. If this thread is still running then, I’ll tell you how it went.

  3. Mark Brown says:

    Kevin, I know the feeling. Our storehouse is about a 90 minute drive for me, but I go every chance I get. I have a calling now with the young men, so I always try to take some of them with me, too.

    The director at ours told me once that the GA who dedicated the building said that he considers the bishops storehouses of the church to be sacred buildings, on par with our temples. I had never thought of that before — after all, these are just big warehouses you drive forklifts in — but I can see how that is true.

  4. Thanks Kevin, brings back fond memories canning green beans at the Naperville storehouse and driving a tractor laid into the night at stake farm discing the field for planting soybeans.

  5. I love helping at the Storehouse, even if it’s just sweeping the floor. My family benefited immensely when I was a child from the occasional food order.

    Our Storehouse is collocated with the local LDS Employment Center. When I used have to be at the EC monthly for training, our meetings were on the Storehouse floor itself. It gave a very visceral feeling to why we needed to learn those skills to take back to the specialists in our stakes.

  6. When I was a teenager we had a regular assignment to work at the LDS fish cannery in San Diego. We canned tuna fish straight off of the boats. We would come back home just reeking of fish. But it was a fun job.

    Today the building is still a Bishop’s storehouse but they use the equipment to can a whole lot of other stuff.

  7. The Bishop’s Storehouse right next to my son’s school, and is one of my favorite places on earth. I’m the backup cook for lunch, and I love it when they call me. Honestly, and I’ve said this before, I feel the Spirit more often and with more strength there than I do in the Temple. It’s an amazing place.

  8. We still do tomatoes here in Sacramento, but it’s gross unless you are at the end of the line working with the final product. And it’s really loud no matter where you work.

    The storehouse is much more fun–cleaner, quieter, and livelier. Almost always there’s a few who enjoy a bit of competitive order-filling. Nothing makes time fly quite like a good race laced with service.

  9. I used to enjoy working at the DC cannery.

    We used to have a small stake farm, but now the church owns a massive AgReserves operation in East Anglia.

  10. John Mansfield says:

    Working in the bishops’ storehouse always feels so purposeful. My father, a retired truck driver, had a calling in the bishops’ storehouse for a couple years that he served faithfully. It’s the only calling in the Church that he ever had. There is too little of this kind of thing for those who aren’t teachers or leaders.

  11. Kevin – Thanks for the great reminder of what is really meaningful in our lives. For years now, I have been compelled to use service at the bishop’s storehouse or the cannery (co-located in our area) as a metephor for the gospel. It’s kind of a pain to go there (in my case traveling about 25 miles on the capital beltway – usually in rush hour traffic) and some of the work – whether it’s filling shelves in the storehouse or canning pears – is not always pleasant. I think the gospel, like a welfare assignment, initially seems overwhelming and perhaps even unpleasant to someone contemplating such a change in their life. But when the service is done and I’m on may way home there is always a warm feeling in my heart and enough satisfaction to draw me back whenever the opportunity arises. I think it is because of that experience that I’ve always felt that service in the church is almost a selfish exercise, because the one giving the service gets so much in return. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. I think that the bishops storehouse is an example of “true” religion as defined in James.

    I plan on doing lots of service trips to the local storehouse when my 5 boys are old enough to be of value as workers.

  13. BTD Greg says:

    This post has no credibility to me whatsoever.

    Who orders salad at Culvers?

  14. Dang, this triggered such a memory. I spent one of the most educational and interesting summers working (and living) on the Church Welfare farm for $1/day. (The going labor rate was $1.25 / hour) I earned $40. What a treat! Combining oats, bailing alfalfa, slaughtering sheep for food, weeding the garden, slopping the pigs. It was the hardest work I have ever done.

    I agree, it was the real gospel and more. I learned lots about life, commitment and work.

  15. Kevin Barney says:

    Good point, BTD Greg! In my defense, I made a total pig of myself at Easter dinner and was doing some reparative penance. (I really like their avocado bleu pecan salad. Apparently they’ve stopped making it, but they agreed to prepare one for me special.)

  16. Researcher says:

    Oh my goodness! BTD Greg beat me to it! No fried cheese curds? No Butterburger? No carmelized onions? No frozen custard? Not even a small one? Forget the bishop’s store house; I want to go to Culvers.

    (Just kidding. Kind of.)

    I’ve always loved doing work assignments at the storehouse. Wonderful sense of community and service. Wonderful chance to visit with people and hear different kinds of stories and memories than you would at a ward party.

    I’ve never been to the one here. It is in a neighboring state and about an hour and a half drive. My husband sometimes signs up for an assignment, and he always takes the children who are old enough and it is one of the children’s absolutely favorite activities ever. They love working there. Turning eight doesn’t just mean getting baptized; it also means getting to help at the storehouse. (At least at this one.)

  17. We have a church vineyard in my area. My friend who has the job of coordinating the labor there says that his church calling is “master of the vineyard.”

  18. mmmm. Culvers. *drool*
    Definite disadvantage to living in the Southeast, no Culvers. We do have Bojangles, though.

  19. As someone who has benefited from the work of others at the Storehouse, let me just say, “Thank you.”

  20. BTD Greg says:

    Don’t take Bojangles for granted. Their biscuits are terrific. We have Popeye’s here in Texas and it’s close, but not as good.

  21. Eric Chambers says:

    San Diego Fish Story – I remember good times at the Tuna Cannery also when I was a teenager and young adult. And I concur, after fulfiling an assignment there we REEKED of fish!

  22. Since I’m self-employed and work at home (when I have work to do), I often end up being one of the few high priests who can fill mid-week, mid-day assignments, such as at the cannery. I enjoy it every time I go, as I do working in the cafeteria in the temple. Two other HPs in our group — Ron and Gary — are both retired, so it’s often two or all three of us filling those assignments (we call ourselves the “Three Amigos”).

    Eric (#21): I also was a teenager in San Diego when the Church still ran the tuna cannery. All the stakes in the area were forever trying to come up with welfare alternatives (I believe our stake [San Diego East] tried hives and honey for a while) because working at the cannery was so unpleasant. I can still remember hauling a trash can full of fish parts out to the dumpster outside — said dumpster already containing lots of fish parts and having been heated by the summer sun for some hours — opening the dumpster lid, and nearly losing the contents of my stomach, upper and lower intestines at the ripe, rich smell blasting from its depths.

    This is, perhaps, one of the reasons I love working at the cannery here in Denver. We do applesauce, tomato soup, all sorts of pleasant foods. Never tuna. ..bruce..

  23. Coffinberry says:

    Don’t forget the Jam, Bruce. Especially the sour plum. Also cream of chicken soup (no, you don’t want to see that one put together in the vat).
    I went through a pair of sneakers once, filling peach cans (hot!). They ended up all sticky. My son lifted by hand more than a ton and a half of peaches into the work line that day, one basket at a time.

    The last couple of times I tried to go, I got partway their (it’s about an hour away), before I got a call saying “we have too many people… try again another time!”

  24. I’ve never worked at a church storehouse or cannery, though I would like to some time. I think we’ve just never lived close enough to one to have anyone filling regular assignments, because I’ve never even been asked (nor have I heard anyone else asked at church).

  25. Eric Chambers says:

    Bruce-I grew up in the San Diego East Stake (LM 1 ward). I remember the welfare farm the stake bought out in Santee or Lakeside. If I remember correctly it also had an apricot orchard. Unfortunately if I’m not mistaken they were not the correct variety of apricots for canning. I’m not sure what happened to that farm as I believe it stayed with the Santee Stake when that stake was formed and the two La Mesa wards were combined with several wards from the old San Diego Stake to make up the San Diego East Stake.

  26. Thanks for sharing Kevin.
    I wish we had a storehouse here, I know quite a few that could (have) benefited from that. Also miss the other church services (like for finding jobs).

    Someday the membership will be large enough to warant those services here, just got to have faith. :)

  27. I have filled assignments at the cannery before, but never the Bishop’s Storehouse. I’m sure at some point in my life, I will have the pleasure of helping to fill orders as well.

    My only complaint about the Bishop’s Storehouse? No Coke!!

  28. I’m sorry you have meaningless church meetings. I try to make every meeting I go to have meaning by adding as much as I can.

  29. Cynthia L. says:

    Kelsey, please deploy some of that talent you claim to have for taking dull things and turning them beautiful by your presence, on this very website. Kevin has a beautiful post about how much he loves taking time out of his very busy life to selflessly serve his fellow saints. Your contribution comes off a little grouchy and an extremely unfair reading of what he wrote.

  30. That was extremely charitable, Cynthia.

  31. Thanks Ray. The first draft was substantially less so. :-)

  32. Can someone tell me, where I can get a substance, that takes out the oxygen for preservation? I understand you put at the bottom of a barrel for storage. I want to store some brown rice and other perishables.

    I am not an LDS, but had many former neighbors who were…unfortunately have moved away. I believe we should be setting aside for a rainy day.