Photography by Kathy Tran.

Jennifer Kassing and her husband already had four biological children when they felt God calling them to adopt. They welcomed their fifth child, a boy from Guatemala, in 2003.

“I just knew that somehow I wanted to do something that would get me back to Guatemala and give me an opportunity to be able to just minister to the children and families in Guatemala,” Kassing says.

For Kassing, Preston Hollow isn’t just a great place to raise a family, a part of the city where the lots are spacious and full of trees. It is a place where neighbors get to know each other and connect each other to opportunities. Kassing met several women who worked or volunteered for Orphan Outreach, which provides education, food, medical care and emotional healing to orphaned and vulnerable children and their families.

When she learned the organization worked in Guatemala, she eagerly began volunteering. That was about 10 years ago. Then about four years ago, she started working part-time for the organization, helping with the Joseph’s DreamCoat adoption grant program. Throughout her involvement with Orphan Outreach, Kassing had traveled to Guatemala many times, and on her trips, she visited markets and purchased goods from the artisans to bring back to the United States. Orphan Outreach sold the Guatemalan goods at an event around Christmas and used all proceeds to support the organization. As the event grew each year, so did demand for its products.

Kassing took over responsibility of buying for the event. She and other staff members began to consider creating an online marketplace where the products could be bought and sold year round.

Then the pandemic hit, and that’s when they really started to kick things into high gear. 

“We just realized, yes, we need to do this because we need to be able to continue to work with artisans in Guatemala,” Kassing says. “They were hit so hard, as everybody was, of course. But when the tourists stopped coming, there was nobody buying.”

The Orphan Outreach Marketplace went live around Memorial Day last year but wasn’t fully stocked until December. Along with some home shows and their big holiday event, the online marketplace brought in about $70,000 in revenue then. The organization has been able to employ more than 100 artisans and families over the last 18 months.

As a product designer, Kassing collaborates with Guatemalan artisans to create pieces for the store. About 60% of the curated products are exclusive to Orphan Outreach Marke tplace. Kassing used to work in the fashion industry in New York, so her work with the nonprofit fits with her long-standing interests. But she can’t take all the credit for the designs; the other women on the board of Women for Orphans Worldwide (WOW) help, too.

“My real, true skillset is merchandising. That’s really what I do best,” Kassing says. “I would say that design is not necessarily my main wheelhouse, but I can do it, and I know what I like.”

Orphan Outreach is working on its latest partnership with Honduran artisans, who will be producing baskets for the nonprofit. And in the future, Kassing hopes to cultivate relationships with makers in Kenya and India, two other countries where the nonprofit is active.

Products will be sold at the WOW luncheon Dec. 6 and at several other holiday markets this year, including the Ursuline Academy Holiday Bazaar.

“So everything that you buy, 100% of it goes to help and support orphans and vulnerable children through the programs of Orphan Outreach,” Kassing says. “So it’s truly shopping with purpose.”


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