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Volunteer Highlight: Linda and her “magic suitcase”



  • August 20, 2020
Rachel Godwin
Rachel Godwin

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Linda Wheeler has come to be known as “the fun one” whenever she goes to Guatemala.

She’s the one you’ll always find passing out toys and candy to the kids, asking the moms in the village if there’s anything they need, and just looking for ways to bring people a smile while they stand in line for a check-up.

It all started about four years ago when Linda was scheduled to go on her second trip with World Help to Guatemala. Unfortunately, the trip was canceled because of the Zika virus outbreak at the time. Someone recommended that Linda go on the next scheduled trip, but she wasn’t so sure at first. It was a medical missions trip.

“I thought, ‘I don’t know anything about medicine. I’m a real estate agent!” Linda said. “But I tried it. I was really kind of nervous, but it’s been the best thing. I’ve been on medical trips ever since.”

Linda has now been to Guatemala a total of five times … and she always brings what the other team members call her “magic suitcase.”

Months before each trip, Linda begins collecting items to take with her. She lets her friends and her real estate clients know she could use towels, children’s clothing, and other items to pass out to needy families in Guatemala … and all those items go in an extra suitcase.

When the medical missions team goes out and sets up mobile clinics in remote villages, Linda is there at a station handing out toothbrushes, toothpaste, and other hygiene items … but she also has her magic suitcase.

“As people come by, I’ll pick out something — a piece of clothing for a little child or a baby onesie — and I’ll have lollipops and candy that I hand out,” she said.

But this summer, Linda wasn’t able to pack her magic suitcase.

She was planning to make her sixth trip back to Guatemala this August, but her plans once again got railroaded by an outbreak. This time it was the coronavirus.

Linda is still hopeful that she’ll be able to make the trip in October, when it’s been tentatively rescheduled for. But in the meantime, she decided to help out and spread joy in another way — by volunteering at the World Help distribution center.

She saw a post on social media asking for people to help sort and pack items to be sent overseas. And even through World Help’s headquarters was three and a half hours away, Linda decided to go.

In fact, she made it into her own mini vacation, staying the night and seeing some of the local sights the day before she was scheduled to volunteer.

“The real estate business can be very stressful and constant,” Linda said, “so this has been allowing my brain to rest, and I love organizing stuff.”

Linda and two other women were assigned to help open boxes of shirts, remove hangers, and organize them into piles separated by gender and size. And she didn’t even have to worry about work once.

Her husband who runs the real estate business with her told her he would take care of answering the phones and making sure everything ran smoothly while she was gone. Linda said he often volunteers in the fall, and she then returns the favor for him.

“It’s been great getting to know two ladies that I didn’t know before and making new friends,” Linda said. “And while it’s a very needed task, it doesn’t take too much thought, so it’s been very freeing.”

Linda encourages anyone who is able to volunteer to sign up like she did, noting that many people probably have no idea what all goes into getting lifesaving supplies ready to ship to families in need.

A lot has to happen before donated clothes, hygiene kits, food items, and medical equipment can be sealed into boxes and packed into shipping containers. They first have to be counted, sorted, and organized. They need to be checked for defects and labeled to make sure each box ends up exactly where it needs to go — into the hands of the people who need it most.

“It’s a very worthwhile project, and it’s very much needed,” Linda said. “There’s a lot involved, and many hands make light work.”

Linda is looking forward to getting back to Guatemala as soon as she can, but she’s glad she found a way to serve right here in Virginia this summer.

Plus, there was one extra bonus she couldn’t help but smile about. Instead of being limited to just one or two “magic suitcases” filled with goodies, Linda was able to pack her entire car! She joked that she could barely see out the windows for all the boxes of baby toys, kids’ shoes, and other donated items she collected to bring to the distribution center and be shipped to communities in need.

* * *

If you’d like to make your own trip to the World Help distribution center to volunteer, we could definitely use your help!

Many families living in poverty are struggling more than ever since the pandemic hit and left countless people unemployed. Companies and organizations have seen this need and donated more clothes, food, and other lifesaving supplies to World Help than our staff can process on their own.

Until these items can be sorted and packaged, they won’t be able to be sent to the families waiting for them.

That’s where you come in! Like Linda, you can volunteer.

Simply click here to sign up for a time slot online. You can also email humanitarianaid@worldhelp.net if you have questions about volunteering during a time not listed or about bringing a group.

Live too far away to volunteer? Don’t worry — you can still get involved by making a financial gift. Once donated supplies have been sorted and are ready to send overseas, there’s still the matter of the shipping cost.

Your gift of just $30 is enough to ship an incredible $990 worth of lifesaving essentials!

So your donation multiplies 33X!

Whether you choose to volunteer or to give, you’ll be making an incredible difference. You’ll be showing others the love of Christ and helping them survive despite poverty and a pandemic.

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