Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation

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Note: Considerable controversy has surrounded Operation Blessing and Pat Robertson's use of funds therefrom not evident in this article. For more see [1] [2]

Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation (OBI) is a non-profit 501 (c) (3) humanitarian organization based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA. Founded in 1978, Operation Blessing has helped more than 155 million people in 96 countries and all 50 states as well as distributed goods valued at more than $500 million. Operation Blessing is governed by a national board of directors that includes founder M. G. Pat Robertson and retired COO Robert W. Fanning.

In efforts to relieve human suffering we combat hunger, deprivation and physical affliction with the provision of food, clothing, shelter, medical care and other basic necessities of life. Facilitate the development of healthy, vibrant and self-sustaining communities by addressing larger issues of education, food security, potable water, employment, community health, and disaster mitigation projects. In every endeavor, OBI seeks to exemplify Christian compassion and benevolence while conforming to the highest standards of integrity.

Development assistance to economically disadvantaged people and victims of disaster throughout the world. In the United States, Operation Blessing International focuses on providing food, clothing and other material assistance to inner-city and rural families facing financial hardship.

Internationally, OBI emphasizes medical missions and resource development in under-served nations and countries requesting assistance. Operation Blessing International is a member of the Association of Evangelical Relief and Development Organizations (AERDO) and is registered with the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

From its beginning, OBI has been dedicated to the principle of stewardship, a cornerstone of our corporate philosophy. We are the intermediary between our donors and the people they seek to help. With that understanding in mind, OBI maximizes the efficacy of every dollar of funding through leveraging. We encourage matching contributions from churches, ministries and other benevolent organizations that are part of our assistance network. OBI is registered with the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), an association of more than 790 evangelical, nonprofit organizations requiring the highest standards of financial accountability and disclosure to donors, government, and other interested people.

Founded on November 14, 1978 by businessman and philanthropist, M.G. Pat Robertson, Operation Blessing was originally set up to help struggling individuals and families by matching their needs for items such as clothing, appliances, and vehicles with donated items from viewers of The 700 Club, Robertson's daily television program.

Operation Blessing's impact increased dramatically when local churches and helping organizations agreed to provide matching funds for assistance projects and individual aid. With the help of these groups, Operation Blessing began providing low-income families with food baskets, help with delinquent rent and utility bills, new school clothes and other necessities. Special types of needs led to additional projects, such as an annual distribution of thousands of blankets to the homeless and a program that provides seeds for community vegetable gardens.

Growth

While Operation Blessing's outreach was spreading throughout the United States, its commitment to helping hungry people and disaster victims in foreign lands was also growing. Operation Blessing began sending food staples, blankets, medications, and other necessities to hurting areas around the world, like famine-ravaged countries in Africa and areas devastated by disasters such as Mexico City. By its 10th anniversary, Operation Blessing had spent $40 million of its own funds worldwide and through the cooperation of other organizations, had leveraged that amount to approximately $196 million.

In 1986, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation (OBI) was formed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to handle international relief projects. Operation Blessing projects in the United States continued under the auspices of CBN until 1993, when all Operation Blessing activities were transferred to OBI.

With goals to expand Operation Blessing's humanitarian arm without incurring high overhead costs as well as engage ministry partners at the local level across the United States and worldwide, the first OBI outreach centers were established in 1990. Dedicated volunteers in more than forty locations around the world now provide manpower and logistics in helping Operation Blessing reach the hurting in their communities. Each outreach center also partners with numerous ministries, food pantries, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens surrounding their community, providing hope every year to tens of thousands of individuals living in poverty.

Feeding The Hungry

Through soup kitchens, school lunch programs, our fleet of Hunger Strike Force trucks and a broad network of local agencies we provide nutritious food and essential supplies to tens of thousands of children and adults in America and overseas who face hunger every day.

The Hunger Strike Force (HSF), OBI's fleet of trucks, was established in 1992. The HSF collects donated food from produce growers, packers and shippers, as well as non-perishables from manufacturers and distributors. A 35,000 square-foot distribution center in Virginia opened in 1994 and shortly thereafter another one opened in California, making it possible to ship mixed loads of food and other goods. HSF trucks deliver the donated items to a network of more than 5,000 community-based relief organizations that then fill the hands of the hungry with groceries.

In addition to delivering food numerous locations in our network every day, several community food distribution events with various companies as well as the NFL, and professional sports teams including the San Francisco 49ers, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Baltimore Ravens are take place several times every year.

Quenching The Thirsty

Operation Blessing is breaking the cycle of water-borne suffering through its Living Waters program. We drill new fresh water wells and build cisterns that attack the problems caused by the lack of water. By drilling wells to uncontaminated water sources and building cisterns men, women and children around the world experience a new way of life as they have easy access to life-giving water. People living in countries including Cambodia, China, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Mexico, Philippines, Romania and Uganda have been helped.

Treating The Sick

OBI's Medical Services program started when a medical team of volunteers went to help the people of Romania in 1994. The medical outreach program sends volunteer teams of doctors, dentists, other health care professionals and support staff on one- to two-week missions. While the nature of each mission may vary with the patient needs at the scheduled destination, the teams typically provide a variety of basic medical and surgical services.

To further augment the work of its medical missions, OBI commissioned The Flying Hospital, a specially equipped L1011 jet aircraft in 1996. Through September 2000 the aircraft provided facilities for world-class medical/surgical services to thousands of people in developing countries and disaster-stricken areas. In light of rising terrorist attacks and world conflict, it has been decided Operation Blessing will not use The Flying Hospital on further missions at this time.

In addition to performing surgical and clinical procedures during short-term medical missions, hard to get equipment, supplies, vitamins and medicine are routinely sent around the world. The MedEx World Kit project is once such venue. It addresses a community's long-term, day-to-day medical needs. More than 40 basic medical kits have been placed in rural villages throughout Guatemala and Kazakhstan where medical help is not easily accessible. These medical kits provided quick treatment of minor injury and illness, preventing serious infection and debilitation.

Restoring Children's Dreams

Bless-A-Child began restoring the dreams of children living in poverty and at-risk situations in 1984. It empowers locally run programs all around the world to address such issues as hunger, abuse, health, education, character, spiritual knowledge, and life skills. In the United States, (BAC) provides children in need with shoes, clothing and supplies for school through the Back-To-School Project (BTS). BTS enables many to enjoy the things often unappreciated like a warm breakfast and healthy school lunch. Bless-A-Child goes even further in offering many kids opportunities for clubs, sports participation and tutoring that encourages their growth and development. International programs provide aid to orphanages; assist with food, clothing, education and medical services for disadvantaged and homeless children; and helps build, equip and support schools in rural areas.

Responding To Disaster

After responding to Hurricane Andrew disaster victims in 1992, Operation Blessing has since continued to quickly deliver life-sustaining supplies and services to millions of victims of hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, tornadoes, floods, blizzards and man-made disasters. The Hunger Strike Force helps by transporting needed items including water, food and cleaning supplies to the disaster areas. For international disasters, aid is transported to devastated regions by plane, ship or rail.

Breaking Poverty's Cycle

Hope Works is a successful tool in bringing hope to an individuals' long-term future. Operation Blessing committed itself to serve more struggling people when significant changes came to the United States' welfare policy in 1997. In the United States we partner with locally based agencies to provide life skill training and a support network for unemployed and underemployed Americans looking for a better life. In developing countries Hope Works takes a different approach. Students can't be prepared for jobs that don't exist. So, we look at a community's needs and create employment opportunities. For example, micro-credit loans have been awarded towards women's cooperatives in Chad, a well drilling company was created, and sewing cooperatives in South Africa were begun as well as other projects around the globe.

Staff

PRESIDENT & CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Bill Horan oversees the daily operations of Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation.

VICE PRESIDENT, PROCUREMENT & CORPORATE RELATIONS Pam Erickson oversees the procurement and corporate relations team in the daily acquisition of food, medical, and relief supplies for all Operation Blessing programs.

DIRECTOR OF MEDIA & GOVERNMENT RELATIONS DEBORAH BENSEN, CSEP oversees all of OBI's government relations and media relations activities including government partnerships and grant programs, media campaigns, publications, and promotions.

DIRECTOR OF OUTREACH JODIE NELSON oversees all aspects of the national Outreach Program activity, providing guidance and resources for ongoing programs and community development projects.

DIRECTOR OF HUNGER STRIKE FORCE STEVE O'GRADY oversees the daily operations of Operation Blessing's Hunger Strike Force (HSF).

REGION I OUTREACH AND PROGRAMS MANAGER RICH DANZEISEN oversees OBI centers in the western United States as well as manages national Bless-A-Child and Back-To-School programs.

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