words by: Nic Stoltzfus
Both Hands is a Tennessee-based non-profit with a mission of fulfilling James 1:27 by serving orphans, widows, and Christian adoptive families. Since Both Hands began, they have raised $16.5 million for adoptions and orphan causes through 1,209 projects serving 1,346 widows and 1,451 orphans.
But it all started twenty years ago with just one little note.
Back in 2003, JT Olson was heading up a charity golf tournament to raise funds for Bethany Christian Services. When he sent a letter to his friend asking for money, his friend sent the letter back, no money included, but instead with a sticky note scribbled with this message: “JT, if you told me you were working on a widow’s house, I might sponsor you, but you’re just golfing. Nice cause, but not my money.”
“JT, if you told me you were working on a widow’s house, I might sponsor you, but you’re just golfing. Nice cause, but not my money.”
The note was pointed, but the idea stuck in JT’s head—what if he did a fundraiser to help widows? Would it be more effective than a golf tournament or a 5K run?
JT would have the chance to test out the idea a few years later. After church one Sunday, one of his friends, Don, approached him. Don told JT that he was adopting four children from Moldova. This came as a shock to JT—Don already had three biological children, and now he was going to add four more?! JT asked Don what led him to want to adopt these four children. Don told him that he had gone to Moldova on a mission trip delivering beds to orphanages, and a little boy named George captured his heart, and they were inseparable the whole week. After Don got home, he talked with his wife, and they decided to adopt George. In the process, they discovered that George had three other siblings, and Don and his wife didn’t want to separate the children. Don said that the total cost for the adoption of the kids was estimated to be seventy to eighty thousand dollars, and he had no idea how he was going to raise the money.
Without hesitation, JT told his friend that he would do whatever he could to help raise the money to keep the children together. It was time to put his friend’s sticky note idea to work. He was going to do a project that would help both orphans and widows. JT decided to call the project “Both Hands,” taking their inspiration from James 1:27—one hand for the widow, one hand for the orphan.
Don and JT recruited fifteen friends of theirs. They all sent out letters saying that they would be serving a local widow, Miss Lucille, with help around her home (landscaping, decluttering, skilled labor, and painting). In the letters, they asked people to sponsor them, with all of the funds going towards the adoption costs for George and his siblings.
Around thirty-five people showed up on the volunteer day to help Miss Lucille. Their supporters sent in donations. The total amount? About seventy thousand dollars raised! Finally, Don and his wife had enough funds to adopt, and George and his siblings found their forever home in Nashville, Tennessee.
This first project set the foundation for Both Hands’ purpose: to help Christian adoptive families fund their adoptions by coordinating a service project fixing up a widow’s home.
Adoption is expensive. In fact, studies continue to show it’s the #1 reason families who want to adopt aren’t able to move forward, with costs ranging from $30,000-$70,000. This is where Both Hands comes in. Their average project raised a total of $22,000 from 2021-2022, making them the highest yielding adoption fundraiser out there.
One thing that sets their ministry apart from other adoption fundraisers and websites like GoFundMe is that Both Hands doesn’t take anything out for their operating costs. That’s right, 100% of the funds a family raises goes towards their adoption, and Both Hands has a “No Funds Guarantee” pledge for adoptions.
To cover its operating costs, Both Hands does a yearly Vision Project. This is the only fundraiser that the organization does, so the more funds that are raised in the Vision Project, the more families they can help. This year’s Vision Project takes place on May 6 in Franklin, Tennessee. The goal is to raise $350,000.
If you want to support the 2023 Both Hands Vision Project, you can make a donation by visiting www.bothhands.org/vision or by writing a check payable to “Both Hands” and mailing it to this address:
Attn: Vision Project 2023
P.O. Box 2713, Brentwood, TN 37024
write “Vision Project 2023” in the memo line
To read the full issue where this story came from, purchase an April 2023 back issue here.
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Nic Stoltzfus is the editorial manager at Plain Values magazine. He and his wife Jen live in Reading, Pennsylvania, with their three crazy cats and rescue dog, Paul. They hope to have children soon! Nic loves volunteering in his community—he is teaching Sunday school next spring, is involved with the Schuylkill River Passenger Rail Authority’s plan to bring back passenger rail to Berks County, and he serves as secretary of the Nicholas Stoltzfus Homestead Preservation Committee. He is currently working on a novel about the immigrant Stoltzfus family.