Tag Archives: needy

Operation Christmas Child

September 24, 2013 by

Often, the effects of kind deeds go unseen. Who receives that donated coat? What food is purchased with that monetary donation? Whose life was impacted?

Breanna Burklund, 17, a student at Millard South High School, decided it was time to witness the good her work had done.

For the past 12 years, Burklund has volunteered with Samaritan’s Purse, an international Christian relief and evangelism organization that follows the motto, “Go and do likewise.” More specifically, she has helped with Operation Christmas Child, one of the organization’s programs that aims to spread love to needy children around the world.

The heart of OCC is packing shoeboxes for boys and girls ages 2 to 10. Individuals, families, churches, and other groups in the U.S. and 10 other countries fill these shoeboxes to the brim with items that impoverished children may not be able to afford—toys, school supplies, hygienic items, and clothing. Then, the boxes are delivered to children across the globe.

“As a child, my family and I used to pack boxes,” Burklund says. “We then got our high-school youth involved.”

But Burklund got the opportunity of a lifetime this past July. She traveled to the Philippines to personally deliver shoeboxes to children.

Burklund started her distributions in the Philippines at People’s Missionaries Church and a public school, delivering packages to 400 children between the two locations.

“If everyone could pack twice the number of boxes they did last year, we could see a box in the hands of every child in need.” – Breanna Burklund

“I couldn’t believe how overjoyed all the kids were,” Burklund remembers. “I also noticed that they were very protective of their box. Most of the kids have never received a gift like this or had anything of their own, so even for us to try and play with them or see what they got was hard. They were very skeptical and wanted to make sure nobody was going to take [the box].”

As she delivered more and more boxes to boarding and public schools, she noticed that, while so many children were benefiting from the program, many others were being left out.

“How do you stand there and watch [the children] watch you give out boxes to only a select few, but turn way because there aren’t enough?” Burklund asks. “If everyone could pack twice the number of boxes they did last year, we could see a box in the hands of every child in need.”

Last year, Nebraska and the surrounding area sent 534,136 shoeboxes abroad. Burklund, as well as the Samaritan’s Purse Eastern Nebraska division, hope that number can be doubled by getting more people involved.

Still, even if every child were to receive a box, there is no guarantee of what each child would receive since the delivery is left up to chance (though Samaritan’s Purse has a helpful list of shoebox gift suggestions on their website). Burklund prays that each child receives what he or she truly needs.

“Two twin girls came up to receive their boxes, and they ended up getting separated in line,” Burklund recalls. “I didn’t really think much of it, but later, when I was playing with the kids, I came across them, and they both held up pictures of two twin girls that had packed their box from the U.S.—a jaw-dropping moment! That’s really when it hit me that this has to be God. How else would the two separated girls both get the twin boxes?”

Burklund’s trip piqued her interest in missionary work. She says she would love to do more missionary work, especially with children, and has her sights set on a trip next summer to an orphanage in China. For now, however, she will continue sending shoeboxes abroad.

“A lot of people get strung up on what to put in the boxes, but the real focus is on the message the kids receive. The gift is the bonus, but with it, a seed is planted.”

Shoeboxes will be collected during National Collection Week, Nov. 18-25. Locations for shoebox drop-off include Benson Baptist Church (6319 Maple St.), Westwood Church (13056 Atwood Ave.), First Lutheran Church (3200 E. Military), and First Baptist Church (206 E. 23rd Ave.). For more information about how to pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child, visit samaritanspurse.org or call 660-744-4729.

Nancy Wilson-Hintz

January 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

NOVA Treatment Community’s mission is to be passionate about providing treatment services, education programs, and foster care services for children, adolescents, adults, and families, as well as help empower individuals and families to experience a life without substance use, family turmoil, and other problems that adversely affect their lives. This is a mission that NOVA’s newest executive director, Nancy Wilson-Hintz, is excited to be a part of.

The Omaha native and Daniel J. Gross Catholic High School alumna has always loved volunteer work, feeling it’s important to give back to the community in which she lives. Her favorite volunteer work is anything involving advocacy for those who are unable to advocate for themselves—especially working with vulnerable children and adults. Such advocacy led to her graduation from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a bachelor’s degree from the College of Public Affairs and Community Services/Criminal Justice and into volunteering with the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, which oversees child abuse and neglect cases in the child welfare and court systems.

“It is an honor to work with all of the devoted professional people who make it possible for individuals seeking empowerment to have that opportunity.”

Wilson-Hintz worked as a juvenile probation officer and then an adult probation officer for Nebraska State Probation until 1998 when she switched to the nonprofit world. She became the founder and first executive director for CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocate) of Douglas County, a nonprofit organization that advocates for abused and neglected children in the foster care system. CASA volunteers act as a child’s voice in and out of the courtroom, ensuring that the child is receiving all necessary services.

She explains that she chose the nonprofit career path because she believes strongly in “working for the greater good.”In 2006, Wilson-Hintz was asked to be on the NOVA Board of Directors by another board member who was also a CASA volunteer. “Serving on the NOVA Board of Directors provided me with great insight into the workings and mission of the organization. It also helped in transitioning to the NOVA executive director position last fall and taking over the legacy of Eleanor Devlin, NOVA’s founder and executive director of almost 30 years.”

NOVA—which stands for New Options, Values, and Achievements—is a treatment community with adolescent and adult residential programs for substance abuse and mental health problems, outpatient and intensive outpatient services, and foster care services for those who need the support and tools to live a safe, comfortable life.

Wilson-Hintz with NOVA dog, Chance.

Wilson-Hintz with NOVA dog, Chance.

As executive director, Wilson-Hintz says she looks forward to increasing public awareness and funding sources regarding the variety of behavioral health programs and services NOVA offers. “I’m [also] looking forward to networking with NOVA staff, board of directors, funders, and other community organizations that provide behavioral health services,” she says. “It is an honor to work with all of the devoted professional people who make it possible for individuals seeking empowerment to have that opportunity.”

One such devoted “professional” at NOVA with whom Wilson-Hintz works is actually a rescued Border Collie named Chance, who lives with one of NOVA’s Youth Residential Supervisors. “[Chance] was adopted from the Humane Society twice and then returned to the Nebraska Border Collie Rescue, where he lived in foster care for four months before NOVA’s staff adopted him,” she explains.

Chance was named such because he, too, was given a second chance in life to find a loving family and a safe home, which Wilson-Hintz believes makes him a perfect mascot for the organization. As someone who has always thought animals to be extremely helpful in therapy, Wilson-Hintz says that Chance has done an outstanding job making the kids who come to NOVA’s facility feel at home. “He runs to the door to greet the kids each morning, then checks in with staff and spends almost his whole time with the kids…He brings a sense of peace, love, and devotion to the NOVA community.”

“My ultimate goal is to save children and adults from falling through system cracks by ensuring that no one is denied behavioral health services.”

Second chances aren’t just for Chance and the people who come to NOVA though. Wilson-Hintz also displays her faith in second chances in her personal life, as she has adopted three dogs—Petey, Monty, and Jackie—and given them a loving home with her and husband Michael Hintz.

Wilson-Hintz adopted Petey, a 12-year-old Norfolk Terrier, from the Nebraska Humane Society when he was 3 after he was found sick and suffering from a gunshot wound on an Iowa highway in the middle of winter. But she says, he has fully recovered and has been her “inseparable buddy” ever since.

She found Monty, a 6-year-old Miniature Pinscher/Terrier mix, tied up to a dilapidated trailer in a small Nebraska town two years ago. “He was living in deplorable conditions, and it broke my heart to see the hurt and desperation in his eyes,” she says. “I asked if I could have Monty, and the owner agreed to let me take him.” She had planned to take Monty to the Humane Society, but when she brought him home, she fell in love with him.

Today, Wilson-Hintz and Monty are volunteers with Domesti-PUPS, a nonprofit organization that provides service dogs, pet therapy programs, classroom dogs, and educational programs. “Monty and I currently go to a nursing home monthly to visit the residents there. Troubled adults and children quickly connect with Monty because, I believe, they instinctively know that he understands them.”20130108_bs_0027 copy

Her most recent addition was Jackie, a 2-year-old English Setter/Lab mix, whom she adopted from the Humane Society after being her foster parent for two weeks. “Jackie was one of the nine rescued pups from a breeder in Illinois. She was not socialized to humans and extremely fearful of everyone and everything. What I thought would just be a short foster care situation ended up being a permanent one.” According to Wilson-Hintz, Jackie’s social skills have gotten so good that she now acts just like a normal puppy, which means lots of destroyed remotes, cell phones, and shoes for Wilson-Hintz and her husband. But they’re always patient in working with her and enjoy watching her progress.

With such compassion for those who need help, both human and animal alike, there’s no doubt that Wilson-Hintz will continue to expand and better NOVA’s services as executive director. Over the next year specifically, she plans to focus on foster care awareness and foster parent recruitment, as there is a continuous need for stable homes for abused and neglected children who can’t live with their biological families. Although NOVA currently provides foster care homes and family support services, there’s also a great need to increase community outreach, which is why Wilson-Hintz is making foster care awareness one of her top priorities.

She has several plans for NOVA’s future as well. Her two main goals for the next five to 10 years are to broaden financial opportunities and increase program stability by building on past successes and implementing new forward-thinking options. “My ultimate goal is to save children and adults from falling through system cracks by ensuring that no one is denied behavioral health services simply because they do not qualify for funding through the state or other programs, do not have insurance, or are not able to pay out-of-pocket expenses.”