The Operation Sharing model of gift-in-kind distribution is the direct result of compassionate partner organizations and the relationships they have built with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP) over the past 30 years. While the impact of the program is most evident on the distribution side, where families and individuals in need are connected to essential goods and commodities, it would not be possible without the gift-in-kind donations of partner organizations whose missions align with CAP. Gifts-in-kind are donated from a number of organizations and corporations, but a handful of long-time partners from across the country are some of the most reliable sources for donations.
Operation Sharing became a partner with Feed the Children in January 1988 and has received over 127 million pounds of product since becoming an active partner. In addition to working with partner agencies like CAP to provide food and essentials in the U.S., Feed the Children’s other work includes a homeless education and literacy program, five “Teacher Store” locations (each offers free school materials and books to educators in Title I schools), a summer food and education program, and disaster response. Internationally, they work in 10 countries around the world, employing a child-focused community development approach.
“Our shared mission and values, as well as great collaboration and communication, has made our partnerships tremendously successful,” said Gary Sloan, Feed the Children’s chief operations officer. “We believe that collaboration is the only way to end childhood hunger. Because Operation Sharing has a network of more than 1,400 partner agencies in 15 states, they have the ability to serve many children and families in need.”
Operation Sharing’s capacity to both receive and distribute large quantities of goods is an attractive feature for many partners. “Operation Sharing has a large recipient partner network that allows them to accept many donations that other domestically focused organizations cannot,” described Wade Osmonson, gift-in-kind partner agency manager for World Vision.
“Their broad network, responsiveness, and detailed record keeping allows us to be a one-stop-shop to many donors who otherwise might not contribute product to World Vision,” Osmonson explained.
World Vision, a partner of Operation Sharing since the mid-90s, is an organization primarily focused on addressing the causes of poverty in the developing world. A large part of their ministry is also carried out in the U.S. Echoing a sentiment from other partners, CAP’s mission makes it a perfect fit for a faith-based organization like World Vision. “Our organizations both understand that we are part of God’s holistic (spiritual, relational, and material) ministry to the children and families in need in our world,” said Osmonson.
One of the largest donors to Operation Sharing is Operation Compassion. After having been a recipient of Operation Sharing commodities for a few years, the organization quickly grew into an international and domestic humanitarian organization, providing critical aid and relief work to more than 25 million people each year. Operation Compassion is now able to provide CAP a variety of aid products, including food, water, clothing, shoes, blankets, hygiene items, baby care products, medical supplies, and building materials, to meet a broad spectrum of needs.
“We highly value the number of people served, in a variety of ways, through the work of Operation Sharing. Efficient distribution is important to us and Operation Sharing gets it done,” explained David Lorency, president of Operation Compassion. “The long-term partnership that we both have enjoyed is a great story of how organizations can collaborate and provide solutions to people struggling with poverty in America. Our missions have synchronization – we both are working to build hope and transform lives through service to people in need – and we share common values, such as accountability, stewardship, and the preservation of the dignity of life.”
Typically, private and corporate donors contact organizations like World Vision, Operation Compassion, and Feed the Children offering to donate some kind of product. These organizations determine whether they can use the donation(s) for their own work and coordinate with partners like Operation Sharing to ensure that all donated products will reach the hands of the people who need them most. According to Sloan, “We have the highest confidence that the products we provide to Operation Sharing will be distributed directly to children and families in need. Because of our longstanding partnership, we are able to count on them for pilot programs, special projects, and normal day-to-day offers.”
CAP recognizes the value of these partner agencies, without whom a program like Operation Sharing could not exist, nor would many of the smaller organizations to whom CAP distributes goods. “It is because of lasting collaborations with generous, like-minded organizations that we are able to deliver hope on such a large scale,” explained Guy Adams, CAP’s president/CEO. “Friends of CAP like Feed the Children, World Vision, and Operation Compassion, just to name a few, have made a significant impact in the lives of people in need throughout Appalachia and we cherish their continued support of the work we’re doing.