Operation Give was created by Paul Holton, better known by his nom de guerre “Chief Wiggles”, in September of 2003; in October, 2003, Paul had an attorney, Matt Evans, file the papers to establish Operation Give as a legitimate 501 (3)© Not- for-Profit Organization in Baltimore, Maryland.
Operation Give began when Paul, a member of the Utah Army National Guard, was activated and sent to Iraq in early spring, 2003. He began to send back emails, detailing his time and activities, to a friend back in Salt Lake City, who then created a Weblog (Blog) so that others could read Paul’s journal.
Paul’s family and some friends and co-workers began sending packages to Paul with items to make life in the desert, in the summer, more bearable. Paul began to share these with other GI’s in his group, and then even with the POW’s and townspeople of the area.
The genesis of Operation Give, Joys through Toys, began when Paul posted a story on his Blog about a little Iraqi girl he encountered.
“I saw a little girl crying outside the barbed wire fence by the front gate of the CPA palace where I worked, inside the US-controlled Green Zone. Her mother, who had only one leg, had hobbled inside to talk to someone and the little girl had been separated from her and was left standing outside the fence.”
“She was obviously very poor, wearing a tattered old dress, totally worn-out shoes, her hair matted against her head, indicating she hadn’t had a bath in a long time, and her skin blistered from the dirt and weather” [Paul wrote in his on-line journal].
“Once I saw her, I quickly told the MP’s to move the barbed wire back to let her in so she could join her mother. Her crying stopped as she darted in to grab a hold of her mother’s long black dishdasha which was also torn and frayed form years of use. I told the mother to stay there so I could get her something from my quarters.”
“I went to my office and found some toys and hygiene necessities and brought them back to the little girl and her mother. Through an interpreter, I explained what each item was for, and handed the young girl a toothbrush, a comb, a pair of flip flops, and a stuffed monkey.”
“Her eyes lit up with such joy as I put the monkey arms over her head. She was so excited to receive each item, even though she was somewhat shy about dealing with an American soldier.”
Then Paul wrote the fateful words that, unknowingly, created Operation Give: “If anyone wants to send me something, send me toys to give to the children.” Even after only a few days, hundreds of emails flooded Paul’s blog site, asking how to send toys and other items to Paul to give to the children of Iraq.
Soon, the flood of shipments to Chief Wiggles overwhelmed the Army’s APO mail system, and Paul had to find another way to keep the supplies coming. The first step was to secure warehouse space, so that all donated items could be sent to one place and consolidated before sending to Paul in Iraq. Warehouse space was donated and set up in the Baltimore to meet this need.
Then, through a co-worker, FedEx was engaged to handle the actual transportation of the goods from the warehouse in Baltimore to Chief Wiggles in Iraq. Because of the very nature of this humanitarian aid, and because Paul was an FedEx employee, FedEx decided to donate all of the transportation costs for these moves.
Paul soon realized that the thousands of boxes of toys, school supplies, and hygiene items were more than he could handle by himself; he would have to set up a distribution team on the ground in Baghdad. Working with other American GI’s, service chaplains, and local Iraqis, Paul secured a small mini-bus and warehouse space, and soon his team began making trips to orphanages, hospitals, and schools in the area, to spread goodwill and gifts of joy to hundreds of Iraqi children.
The Operation Give Foundation was established and registered in Salt Lake City, Utah in November of 2004. There is a small group of volunteers in Salt Lake City, Utah and a group of people, both military personnel and nationals, who continue to assist in making it possible to continue funneling all of the donations from around the world to the Operation Give teams in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries. The donated supplies continue to be distributed to children in schools and orphanages, to people in poor conditions and to US soldiers who are attempting to make a difference in their own way.
Operation Give arose from the needs of children all over Iraq for toys, school supplies, hygiene items, clothing, shoes, etc. and to provide the soldiers, assisting to rebuild Iraq, the necessary resources and supplies to help bring hope for a new beginning to the children of war torn country. The continued response from individuals and groups reading about Operation Give on the websites is nothing short of remarkable. However, the need is just as great to continue and expand the reach of Operation Give, and to take it from its current state of a “spare time” charity to something much greater.