Packages of Hope Hosts ‘Hope for the Holidays’ Nov. 29
By MIRANDA ENZOR
OPEN HEARTS: From left, Tony Heineman, Bocheng Zhang (Known as “Noah???), Packages of Hope Founder Sarah Woodard and her daughters and “Directors of Inspiration???for POH Mataya and Adelynn Woodard will be in attendance at the POH “Hope for the Holidays??? open house, set for Nov. 29. The event will take place from 4-6 p.m. at the offices of 3 Points Marketing and Advertising, 5053 S. 79th E. Ave. in the Fontana Shopping Center.
GTR Newspapers photo
Packages of Hope, a Tulsa-based non-profit organization benefiting orphanages in China, Africa and Bulgaria, will hold its “Hope for the Holidays” open house Thursday, Nov. 29 from 4-6 p.m. at the offices of 3 Points Marketing and Advertising, 5053 S. 79th E. Ave. in the Fontana Shopping Center. The open house will feature show-and-tell presentations by POH volunteers, a silent auction, sale of POH fundraiser calendars and holiday cards and refreshments. Those interested in learning more about the organization are invited to attend.
Packages of Hope began as a simple idea by Founding President Sarah Woodard. After adopting her first daughter from China, Woodard wanted to give back to the orphanage where her daughter lived, so she wrote a book, “Daughter From Afar,” and donated the proceeds to help orphans in China. But Woodard wasn’t satisfied.
“I would take a check and write it off to a non-profit organization, but I felt very disconnected from it,” she says. “I wanted to know first-hand what was happening with the money.
“There was a woman from Tulsa volunteering at an orphanage while working in China. Through her, I was able to have a direct contact to find out exactly what they needed. If they needed a heater, I knew if I sent the money it would go straight to buying the heater.”
And thus, Packages of Hope was born. As Woodard met more adoptive families with children from China, they worked together to give back to the orphanages from where their children had been adopted. Woodard quickly decided to make POH a formal organization and recruited friends to be on a board of directors to become a recognized non-profit group.
“It grew from there. It’s taken on a life of its own.”
From the beginning, the most vital aspect of POH was the concept of packages.
“I wanted people to be able to see, ‘Look, here it is and there it goes.’ Having packages was important.”
Due to growth of the organization and recent changes in U.S. postage, POH has had to adjust their game plan. Through monetary donations, supplies needed are bought and shipped within China. But that hasn’t stopped the basic idea of the organization.
“If someone makes a donation, it goes directly to the specific item they want to donate,” Woodard says. “We find out from the orphanages what they need and then I let people know and they donate what they can.”
Woodard posts ‘wish lists’ online where volunteers can pick from items like medical expenses, clothing or new playground equipment. POH volunteers living in China ensure the delivery of the supplies and regularly post pictures on the organization’s Web site, www.packagesofhope.org, so those outside the country can see exactly where their money went.
Tulsa volunteers, such as Tony Heineman, also check in with an annual visit, completely financed by the individual.
“One of the things that made me very nervous, because I cried watching “Little House on the Prairie” when the Ingalls didn’t have any food, was not knowing how I was going to do visiting the orphanages because I didn’t know what to expect,” he says. “My trip was a needs-analysis mission to see what the kids needed. Along the way, I saw so much poverty that I thought, ‘I am so happy that these kids in the orphanages have a chance.’ After I got through the first orphanage and saw the kids had people who loved them, I knew I was going to be okay. It made me feel good about being a part of Packages of Hope because I knew that the people involved cared about the children.”
POH currently boasts over 50 volunteers who work with a dozen orphanages all over China. There are also projects in Africa and plans to begin working with orphanages in Bulgaria. As POH expands, however, they plan to keep donating every cent to children in need.
“There are other organizations where part of the money goes to the needs and the rest goes to paying a staff,” Heineman says. “With Packages of Hope, all of the money goes to whatever the need is.”
Woodard and Heineman, along with Woodard’s two adopted daughters and other POH volunteers, will be on hand at the “Hope for the Holidays” open house to share their stories and explain how Tulsans can become involved, even if it’s simply donating $10 to the cause. For more information on Packages of Hope, visit www.packagesofhope.org.