The Red Cross and the LDS Church have a strong partnership nationwide, so I think it's something here, modeling that good relationship with a community partner like the LDS Church, that could definitely be modeled throughout the country. —Kristy Denlein, Red Cross volunteer services director
SALT LAKE CITY — When Lynne and Val Killian were invited to volunteer for a 24-month humanitarian service mission, they admit it was "totally a surprise."
The Lindon couple had just recently returned from serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada. The new invitation to serve was extended in January as part of a recent arrangement between the church and the American Red Cross.
The LDS Church has set a goal to offer 200 volunteers to the Red Cross by the end of 2014 through callings, church service and missionary assignments, said Kristy Denlein, volunteer services director for the charity's Utah region.
"We appreciate all that the Red Cross does within our community, and we are happy to support their efforts," said church spokesman Cody Craynor.
"That would be amazing," Lynne Killian said of the goal. "I would love to see it. I see much need, and why shouldn't we help? We want to help our communities. We want our communities to be strong and prepared."
"Lots of hands make light work for everybody," her husband added.
The initiative came from a conversation between the LDS Church and Red Cross leaders to take their national agreement and partnership to "the next level," Denlein said.
The volunteers will provide extra support in the local communities and respond to disasters to give "breadth in our services and some depth in our responses through disaster preparedness and response," she said.
The idea for the initiative came after Red Cross Utah Regional CEO Heidi Ruster and Bishop Gérald Caussé, first counselor in the LDS Church's Presiding Bishopric, met to discuss their long-term relationship and how to enhance services that both organizations contribute to the community.
So far, Denlein said, there are 18 volunteers through this new initiative, mostly from Utah County. The initiative also has potential to expand outside of Utah.
"The Red Cross and the LDS Church have a strong partnership nationwide, so I think it's something here, modeling that good relationship with a community partner like the LDS Church, that could definitely be modeled throughout the country," Denlein said.
Lynne Killian helps oversee assistant programs, delivering Christmas cards to veterans and keeping the Red Cross office in order.
Val Killian works to make sure emergency response programs, shelters and kits are all in place.
The couple is also in the process of completing multiple emergency preparedness classes.
"If you're not trained and if you're not proficient and if you haven't an interest, then all you are is just one that needs help, rather than one that can give help," Val Killian said.
His wife said she's surprised how much she enjoys being out in the community, and the time she has found to do it.
"I have enjoyed it very much," she said. "I feel very needed and useful."
"We're all members of the community. No matter what religion or race or creed we are," Val Killian said. "It behooves each one of us to help each other, to help our neighbor, to know what it means to be neighborly."
Bishop Caussé also presented the Red Cross with a check for $60,000 on behalf of The Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints Foundation to support disaster preparedness and response programs. The LDS Church and the Red Cross have collaborated in other efforts since 1987.
"It's a great opportunity for the Red Cross," Denlein said. "We're enjoying working with our partners and we're just excited to see where it takes us through the year."