Change Makers

Handmade from the heart: Fundraising to build Caregiver Kits

During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, Mollie Johanson donated profits from her Etsy shop to build 120 kits for World Vision caregivers.

In a world of mass-produced goods, Mollie Johanson knows there’s something special about a handmade item. The blogger, Etsy shop owner, author, and World Vision child sponsor also knows that these items — and the hands that made them — can change the world. So in early 2015, Mollie sat in a church service and came up with a plan to do just that.

“We were talking about places we see God’s kingdom on earth here and now,” she says. “What came to my mind was World Vision caregivers.”

The timing of Mollie’s plan was perfect. In communities where World Vision works, volunteer caregivers provide home-based comfort and care for neighbors living with AIDS and other diseases. In early 2015, Ebola was ravaging West Africa, and Ebola Caregiver Kits provided critically needed supplies like latex gloves, protective face masks and gowns, and disinfectant to caregivers on the front lines of the epidemic.

Mollie’s shop on Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, sells whimsical embroidery patterns, stitching projects, and more. She blogs about the same topics at Wild Olive, where she has raised money for World Vision kits several times with her readers. Mollie felt led to fundraise for kits again.

Sometimes there’s a time for actually touching the stuff, putting your hands on it, and praying for the people who receive it. Sometimes that’s what you need to do.—Mollie Johanson

She decided to use any shop profits that came in during Lent to purchase kits. With a minimum of 50 kits to fund, Mollie put out the word through her blog and Etsy shop, unsure if she’d be able to raise the $1,500 needed. “God made it clear that this is what I should do, so I just needed to do it in faith,” she says. “And so I set my mind to that.”

Within two days, a customer offered to match Mollie’s profits up to $1,500, boosting her effort and enthusiasm. Forty days later, the revenue totaled $1,800, and the customer agreed to double the entire amount — enough to purchase 120 Ebola Caregiver Kits.

Soon, pallets of medical supplies for assembling the kits arrived at her home in St. Charles, Illinois. Mollie, her five siblings, and their parents got to work building boxes, packing them with the provided supplies, and handwriting notes to the volunteer caregivers who would receive each kit. Their front porch filled with boxes that were picked up and shipped to West Africa.

No doubt, a donation of $3,600 to fight Ebola would have been effective. But, Mollie says, “Sometimes there’s a time for actually touching the stuff, putting your hands on it, and praying for the people who receive it. Sometimes that’s what you need to do.”

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