My name is Jacob Paulsen and in the last two weeks, I was able to witness something that changed my life.
My wife and I were both born and raised in Southern Wyoming and as such we have connections to The University of Wyoming. My father received his master’s degree from UW and both my father in law and mother in law have received multiple degrees from UW.
Now living in Colorado, I work as a volunteer to coordinate with local and regional media outlets when news stories involving The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are covered.
Several weeks ago I received a phone call informing me that there may be some media interest in an upcoming food donation that the church was involved with in partnership with The Black 14 Philanthropy organization.
I had to dust off my Wyoming roots and do a little research to refresh my memory.
Before it was a non-profit organization to support schools, university, black student athletes and underserved communities the Black 14 were just 14 University of Wyoming football players.
In 1969, these 14 football players approached their football coach Lloyd Eaton and asked permission to wear black armbands during the upcoming home game against BYU.
As this time, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which owns and operates BYU, had a policy that excluded black people from the priesthood of the church and many athletes on other teams had worn black armbands to silently protest against that policy.
The church, through revelation to the prophet, changed it’s policy less than a decade later but in 1969 these 14 players were caught by surprise when they went into Eaton’s office to request permission to wear the armbands.
Coach Eaton immediately dismissed them from the team. The loss of these players was a devastating blow to the team. At the time of the incident the Cowboys were undefeated and ranked 16th in the AP Poll. It was all downhill from there and many feel that 50 years later the team has yet to fully recover.
In 1971, when my father and mother in law attended UW they have memories of walking through picket lines to get to the church owned institute where they took religious classes near the campus. The wound was fresh and in many ways for some The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints became to target of the frustration and scorn of UW football.
The Church didn’t kick the players off their team. Coach Eaton did based on the school’s “no protesting” policy.
In the mid 1980s my father attended UW to complete his masters degree. He finished his undergrad at BYU and while living in Southern Wyoming spent several summers in Laramie to finish his masters degree.
He tells me he may be one of very few people in this country who can say (or dares to mention it out loud), that he has a degree from both BYU and UW. Nearly 15 years after the incident the wounds hadn’t healed for many at the University of Wyoming.
Fast forward a few decades. In the fall of 2019, appx 50 years after the incident, The University of Wyoming invited back the Black 14 to speak to students, attend a special dinner, receive an official apology letter, and receive jerseys and letterman jackets.
At a football game attended by the eight players that returned the student body that consists of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints wore Black 14 T-shirts during the game.
In 2020, members of the Black 14 saw the need for food to be donated to help those who are suffering during this pandemic as we enter the holiday season.
Working with Gifford Nielson, President of the Church’s North America Central Area, the Black 14 made an arrangement that many may consider a miracle.
The church agreed to donate and deliver 360,000 pounds of food across the US to cities and local charities selected by surviving members of The Black 14.
John Griffin, a member of the Black 14 who resides in Denver selected Catholic Charities of Denver to be one of those recipients. So on November 17th at 9:00 AM a Deseret Industries semi-truck pulled into the Salvation Army Warehouse in Aurora.
Catholic Charities who lacked a large enough storage facility called on The Salvation Army to receive and store the food donation long enough for it to be distributed to various food banks and organizations across the metro including the Denver Rescue Mission, Salvation Army, and various Food banks and ministries.
From here I don’t need to tell the rest of the story. The local media has done so for me. Below I include some of the video news coverage and a link to The Denver Post.
I end my part of this story by telling you that time can not only heal wounds but also turn hearts toward each other. As I look back at my own family’s history as proud members of a Church that provides vast relief to people affected by tragedy; and the many UW degrees proudly displayed in homes on both sides of my family; it all has come full circle for me as the charity of Christ conquers all.
In 2020 Colorado experienced record-breaking wildfires in several parts of the state. According to VolunteerFirefighter.org Colorado has a total of 418 Volunteer fire departments and recruits approximately 3,500 additional volunteer emergency responders to be fully staffed.
These volunteer departments are dependent on community donations and occasional grants. As fires rage across the state these teams are overwhelmed, understaffed, and underequipped.
In these circumstances Janelle Cluff and Michelle Roethig, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints decided to take action. With the help of other sisters in their local congregation, and many neighbors who responded to Facebook posts, they amassed a large number of items.
Donated items included 18 cases of bottled water, 278 bottles of sports drinks, 88 bottles of eye drops, 56 packages of Mentholated cough drops, 126 packages of baby wipes, 204+ packs of Kleenex, 193 tubes of chapstick, 83 bottles of various sizes of Gold Bond powder, 90 tubes of diaper rash cream, 46 individual hand warmers, 4 nasal sprays, and too many granola bar / jerky / snack items too count.
Across the metro in Arvada, sisters of a different congregation had the same idea.
Ami Paulsen volunteered her home for a drop off point and was overwhelmed by the number of strangers in her neighborhood who responded to a request on Facebook by dropping off various supplies.
“In the middle of a pandemic neighbors and strangers gave willingly to support the brave men and women who are fighting to save homes.”
This donation went toward the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.
Liisa Payne who dropped off the supplies said, “The firefighters were overwhelmed with gratitude for our donations, both the hard supplies and the cash donations. As they unloaded our truck, they noticed a couple thank you notes someone had written to them and they stopped to take pictures of each little note.”
In an effort to honor 9/11 during this unique year of 2020, six Denver faith communities and neighbors joined together in a day to justLOVE, justGIVE and justSERVE.
The three-fold focus for 9/11 Day of Service helped participants reach beyond their circles to make the world a more loving, giving and hopeful place.
Those wishing to join in the day could show some love to a friend or stranger, donate food at the food drive, or choose a service project from the website justserve.org.
Over 9000 pounds of food were donated, both locally and through Salt Lake City humanitarian services. These items were donated to food pantries throughout the Denver area, including Kingdom Connection, Jewish Family Service, Muslim Colorado Food Relief and Covenant Cupboard.
In addition, people volunteered to distribute food at pantries, building shelves, or writing a card to the elderly, to name a few.
On the National Day of Service, September 11th, members of the church in Parker hosted 2 Food Drives, one at the Main St. building to benefit the Parker Task Force Food Bank, and a 2nd at the Elizabeth Building to benefit both Elizabeth & Kiowa Creek Food Banks.
All went well! As always, the Parker Task Force and the food banks in Elizabeth and Kiowa Creek were so very appreciative of our efforts. Learn more about the Parker Task Force and how you can volunteer at https://www.justserve.org/parkertaskforce_parker
September 11th each year is both Patriot Day and a National Day of Service and Rememberance.
According to NationalService.gov:
On this day Americans across the country are called to volunteer in their local communities in tribute to the individuals lost and injured in the attacks, first responders, and the many who have risen in service to defend freedom.
We encourage all to seek out ways to lift and serve others in your local area. Consider using JustServe.org as a resource to find opportunities, including many ideas that are safe and appropriate in a COVID world!
In August we were honored to welcome former Colorado governor and current U.S. Senate candidate John W. Hickenlooper for a tour of the Bishops’ Storehouse in Aurora.
The storehouse has responded to every call for help during the pandemic – including a 100,000-pound donation to Denver food banks in June – and we expect to serve many more Coloradans in need in the months to come.