This week’s Community Helper is Judy Oberstein, who since returning to Shawano has had the opportunity to begin projects through Christian volunteer work with St. James.
Judy is on the Wisconsin board for Orphan Grain Train, a Christian volunteer network that gathers donations such as clothing, medical supplies, food and other aid for those in need. She oversees a group of volunteers in Shawano who receive donations from other networks in Wisconsin so that they can be shipped off.
“It just is really a great group of people,” Oberstein said of the work she oversees. “We welcome everybody in the community, which we do have non-members of St. James that come. We ship to 38 countries and we also ship within the United States.”
One of the biggest projects that the community may be familiar with was their Pails For Haiti drive, which sought the donation of pails for drinking water for those in Haiti after devastating earthquakes.
“That was an extremely huge, huge success,” she said of the drive. “We expected to get maybe 3,000 to 4,000 pails collected and we collected almost 10,000. Those pails to us mean very little, to them over in Haiti it is just a gift. They use it for everything and anything over there.”
Oberstein says she continues to receive messages from missionaries in Haiti expressing their gratitude. Judy says one of the most gratifying aspects of her position with Orphan Grain Train is the people that she gets to meet.
“Both my husband and I have met and have talked to so many people. Not only from the Lutheran church standpoint, but of every religion, whatever it may be. We are a community that knows what it’s like to be down and out and they have helped us tremendously.”
The support of this community and others in the region has been overwhelming this year. Judy adds it makes her work even more enjoyable. Already, the amount of shipments they’ve had this year has exceeded last year’s total.
“Last year we did four semis. This year we have already done six semis. Our business, I guess you could say, has doubled, almost tripled sometimes in the response that we have had. Our last shipment that we sent out was about 1,200 boxes, school desks, tables, blackboards and whiteboards to be used in the schools.”
The shipping process can be complicated and requires certain codes and tags to be met, but that’s where Judy’s network of volunteers comes in. For her, t’s been rewarding to watch her volunteers reach out in their own communities.
“Some of these ladies have taken it back to their own churches and their own communities, and have started collecting clothes, packaging them, and then bringing them to us to be loaded,” she explained. “We really appreciate where this has stemmed off, getting other people getting into the act of doing these things.”
Oberstein is encouraged of the program’s growth over the years, but really that means that those in need of help are getting valuable supplies for survival.
“It’s growing faster than what we thought and we are thinking of having to sit and move some place and we really don’t want to, but we are really getting very crowded,” she admitted. “We will make do with what we have and we do.”
Judy and her husband Jim work on packing every day in order to keep up with the amount of donations they receive.
Helping others has been a passion of hers since long ago, but with the job of her husband, there weren’t enough hours in the day. Once they retired, however, she made helping people her passion and has found a niche in the Shawano area.
“Appleton, Green Bay really does not have a mission type [or] to the north of Shawano,” Oberstein said. “There is not really anything at all like this. So we really are at a central location where we get a lot of people interest to either start up their own program or to bring the clothing to us.”
Those interested in helping Judy and the Orphan Grain Train network with their packaging can do so real by contacting St. James Lutheran church in Shawano, who will put you in contact with the Oberstein’s and the next packing day. Again, anyone from all walks of life are encouraged to help out.