By Brianna Stephens
Four years ago, Dolores Jenkins started donating to Christian Appalachian Project’s Operation Sharing Program when she says God called on her to use her talents to help make a difference. Although she wished she could make a financial contribution, she used her sewing skills instead and sent CAP three handstitched quilts for children in Appalachia.
“I am blessed because the Lord lets me use my hands, he lets me use my eyesight, and He gave me the skills to sew. He has been so good to me that I just have to do whatever I can for as long as I can,” said Jenkins, who lives in Brunswick, Georgia. “The Lord keeps telling me I should do more.”
Jenkins has continued to make and collect donations for CAP, even during the pandemic. She visited the Operation Sharing distribution center in Corbin, Kentucky on Sept. 9 while on her way to visit family in Michigan. It was also her 90th birthday.
This year Operation Sharing celebrated its 35th year. The program collects more than 1,000 donations and gifts-in-kind each year valued at around $100 million or more. Those items are redistributed to nonprofits, churches, schools, and community-based agencies across the 13 Appalachian states, Arkansas, and Missouri to help people in need. Operation Sharing has received and redistributed gifts-in-kind at a value of almost $2 billion during its 35 years. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program has seen a 25 percent increase in donations it has received, said Jeff Burchett, director.
Burchett reached out to Jenkins after receiving her letter to CAP with her first quilt donation. In the letter she explained how she wanted to help CAP in its mission of building hope, transforming lives, and sharing Christ’s love through service in Appalachia. The two have stayed in touch ever since. “At 90 years old, it is amazing to see all that she does. She is looking for ways to find stuffed animals and clothing and make blankets for children every day. She is always thinking about how she can help people in need, and she has a heart to help children,” he said.
Helping the children of Appalachia is a driving force behind Jenkins’ efforts. Growing up during the Great Depression, her family did not have a lot of money and faced hard times. She didn’t have her first doll until she was 12 years old. “Hopefully whatever I can collect and donate will let these little boys and girls know somebody cares about them and someone knows how it feels to be without things,” Jenkins said.
Over the years Jenkins has donated quilts, stuffed animals, porcelain dolls, clothes, shoes, bracelets, watches, and more for the children CAP serves. While she has little money, Jenkins said she receives donations and purchases items when she can. She finds several toys at a local consignment shop, washes them, makes repairs, and sews outfits for the dolls before sending them to CAP.
The children of Appalachia know when they have a quilt made by Jenkins because of the $2 they find in a specially sewn pocket. She does so because she previously received a letter from CAP that stated $2 can help provide food for people in the region. “I’ve always put $2 in the pocket of the quilt hoping it would be of some value to the children. If not, then I know they will be happy to have a couple of dollars for something special,” she said.
Jenkins also recently started collecting books for adults and children in Appalachia and said she hopes to find a way to provide help for people in need of housing in the region. “Whatever I can get to send or whatever I can do I will because I know someone needs it,” Jenkins said. “I couldn’t do any of this if the Lord didn’t allow me to and if He didn’t tell me what to do. He helps me do it and it’s all up to Him.”