Two retired women in Miami, Florida, are busy making stuffed animals for Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts because they want children worldwide to know that God loves them.
Their days often start early and end late, but when you’re doing what you love, the busy days don’t really seem like work at all.
“This brings us joy every day. We give every day to God, every part of this ministry,” said Barbara Korn, who is part of the dynamic duo known as “The Happy Grandmas.” Together they sew stuffed animals to pack in Operation Christmas Child shoebox gifts.
Barbara, 76, and her friend Margarita Sosa, 74, began making the stuffed animals about four years ago as a way to encourage children and share God’s love. They gave their special creations—rabbits, dogs, cats, and pandas—to groups such as orphanages and local hospitals. But they were also looking for something a bit different; a unique opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
“We were praying for a ministry that would be ongoing; a ministry that we could provide to continually,” Margarita explained. “Operation Christmas Child was God-sent.”
“Operation Christmas Child was God-sent.”
Margarita and Barbara connected with the Operation Christmas Child team in Miami, Florida, and knew right away they wanted to offer their stuffed animals to local churches packing gift-filled shoeboxes for children in need around the world.
“We hope the children understand that God loves them and that there’s someone who cares for them,” Margarita said. “We love the Lord and we want to share what we have received by grace.”
Most of the fabric needed to make the stuffed animals is donated, and sometimes Barbara and Margarita also score unique patterns by using gently worn shirts. Every stuffed animal comes with a note from The Happy Grandmas about Jesus Christ and the Gospel.
“We never give it without the message,” Barbara said. “I hope that a child will see Jesus and will see that they are accepted just as they are.”
A Friendship that Honors God
The two friends met about 20 years ago when Margarita visited the church Barbara attended. Margarita had moved from Virginia to Miami and was looking for a church home. At the time, Margarita, who is from Puerto Rico, had been living in the U.S. for about 10 years.
“We were in a Sunday School class together. I remember Margarita asking a lot of questions. I’m very shy, so I wasn’t asking any questions,” Barbara said. “But we became great friends.”
Margarita is grateful to God for giving her a friend in ministry and one whom she considers to be family. “It’s like having a sister,” she said. “We laugh so much. We cry together. We pray for each other—that’s very important.”
Barbara remembers Margarita being by her side after her husband died a few years ago. “We can be up or down. We can be transparent with each other. That’s the greatest—that we accept each other.”
Barbara and Margarita meet at least once a week at Barbara’s home and devote the day to sewing their stuffed animals. They are also busy sewing throughout the week. “The ministry of making these little guys is almost my whole life,” Margarita said. “Right now, in this season of life, this is what God wants me to do. It’s so much fun. God is ministering to us while we’re doing this.”
Trusting God for Kingdom Impact
Barbara and Margarita make hundreds of stuffed animals to pack in Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes that are sent to boys and girls all over the world.
“We make them with so much love, and that love goes with them,” Margarita said.
Although these women will never know all the children who receive their stuffed animals, they are trusting God to use their efforts for His glory.
“We make them, God places them,” Margarita said. “One box is going to reach a child—that’s a soul that is going to be touched by Jesus. One child at a time, it’s going to make a difference.”
Sewing stuffed animals for children is a special project that both women feel called by God to continue as long as they are healthy and able. “Making these creations has given me so much assurance that the Lord is using me for His purpose. If I can see and I can sew and cut and thread, I’ll be doing this until I die,” Margarita said.
“One child at a time, it’s going to make a difference.”
Barbara encourages Christians to never underestimate the power of God to work in the lives of those who are available and obedient.
“No matter how small your contribution is—do it. You can do nothing, or you can do something,” she said. “Every day when I get up, I choose to do something.”
Operation Christmas Child National Collection Week is Nov. 15-21.