Our History

The vision for Unbound began with Bob, Bud and Jim Hentzen, their sister Nadine Hentzen Pearce and their friend Jerry Tolle. Bob and Jerry were former missionaries who, while working in Latin America, witnessed the devastating effects of poverty on families struggling heroically to make better lives for their children. Guided by faith and rooted in Catholic social teaching, the founders envisioned a program that would invite people to partner with families to support, encourage and empower them.

Christian Foundation for Children is founded on Nov. 20. The five co-founders use their Christmas card lists, ads in Catholic publications and personal visits to local parishes to invite the first sponsors. First-year revenues total $14,000.
The first programs are established in Colombia and Honduras.
Co-founder Bob Hentzen visits a coed school in rural Honduras, representative of the humble places where some sponsored children were educated in the early days, and continue to be today.
Children in Honduras at the time of our first programs there.
Florelia Delgado in Bogota, Colombia, is the first child sponsored through CFC. Her sponsors are co-founder Bob Hentzen and his wife, Cristina.
Florelia Delgado was selected from a group of students at her school to be among the first sponsored children. Today she lives and works in Bogota and has two children.
Office operations relocate from Bob’s basement to a farmhouse in Kansas City, Missouri.
From left, co-founder Bob Hentzen, staff members Linda Miller and Dee Chestnut, and co-founder Jerry Tolle.
The elderly are included in the sponsorship program. A few years later, "Aging" is added to the organization's name to become CFCA.
1,000 sponsored children and elders
Sponsorship programs expand to Asia and Africa.
Co-founder Jerry Tolle greets children on a visit to Uganda in 1995.
Co-founder Bob Hentzen on a trip to India around the time we began sponsorship programs there. Today, Unbound works in six countries in Asia and Africa.
CFCA begins offering awareness trips to Guatemala, allowing sponsors to see our work with their own eyes and meet their sponsored friends.
A small group traveled to Guatemala in 1988 to meet sponsored friends and see our work firsthand. The program continues today, coordinating trips to 15 countries for nearly 1,000 travelers a year.
CFCA moves to our present office location in a converted warehouse in Kansas City, Kansas.
Unbound moved to this building in Kansas City, Kansas with a very small staff in 1991. Today, there are approximately 175 employees working out of this warehouse that has been converted into office space little by little over the years.
The weekend parish visit program begins, sparked by co-founder Jim Hentzen, who saw the potential for sharing the work of CFCA in parishes across the country. Priests visit parishes to celebrate Mass, speak about our work and invite parishioners to sponsor. The program continues today.
50,000 sponsored children and elders
In March, President and Co-founder Bob Hentzen begins his 4,000-mile “Pilgrimage of Faith” walk from our headquarters in Kansas City all the way to Guatemala. Walking to show solidarity with the poor and marginalized, Bob walked alongside many in the Unbound community for parts of his journey.
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100,000 sponsored children and elders

Archbishop James P. Keleher of Kansas City, Kansas, sponsors Jose of Honduras.

A scholarship program is established to help with tuition for youth in secondary school, vocational training and higher education.
Mothers groups and child accounts are established, with the first groups forming in India. Mothers groups provide a new level of accountability and support for the parents of sponsored children and their communities. The accounts allow for conditional cash transfers — a model of assistance to the poor with proven impact.
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The governing board adopts the Carver model of policy governance, outlining principles for servant leadership and organizational accountability. The adoption of our Core Values ensures the work and spirit of our founders continues.
250,000 sponsored children and elders

Former Knights of Columbus head Virgil Dechant and his wife, Ann, sponsor 9-year-old Rachelle of the Philippines.

A new database called CASA is launched on July 6. Built and administered in-house, the database provides a one-of-a-kind framework for protecting, storing and organizing the data of sponsored friends and sponsors.
Our volunteer outreach program begins, engaging sponsors to assist at parish visits and other awareness events.
A concert called “The Gift” is held in Zamboanga, Philippines. It serves as the basis for the documentary "Rise and Dream," showing the resilience and creativity of those living in poverty and creating awareness of our work in the Philippines and around the world.
Sponsored children who performed in "The Gift" learned traditional instruments and dance to connect more deeply with their culture.
At age 73, Bob Hentzen picks up his walk where he left off, trekking 8,000 miles from Guatemala to Chile. The second walk takes Bob through 12 countries where 182,000 sponsored friends and their families live, and lasts 18 months.
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eLetters launch

An online tool for sponsors to submit messages to their sponsored friends is introduced. To date, more than 200,000 eLetters have been sent to sponsored friends using this feature.

“Rise and Dream” premieres at the Thin Line Film Festival in Denton, Texas, in February and wins the Audience Choice Award.
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$1 billion

Unbound reaches the $1 billion mark in cumulative assistance sent to our programs around the world to support children and elders.

Co-founder Bob Hentzen dies. At the time of his death, he was in Guatemala where he made his home and was still actively involved in the work as the organization's president.
Kansas City staff members march together to the memorial Mass for Bob at a nearby parish where he and his family attended when he was a boy.
In San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala, Bob’s home at the time of his death, the community walks together to his funeral Mass.
Our name is changed to Unbound, reflecting that the potential of the people we serve is limitless. Before his death, Bob Hentzen helps orchestrate this change, saying “CFCA is our foundation. Unbound is our future.”
Sponsored children in the Philippines enjoy the outdoors while flying kits and sporting their Unbound gear, symbolizing their limitless potential.
Unbound commemorates 35 years
We celebrate 310,000 children and elders and their families in Asia, Africa and Latin America and more than 260,000 sponsors that make our work possible.
Yadira (center), a sponsored child in Guatemala, walks through her community alongside four other sponsored children and their families carrying vibrant, traditional textiles that are common throughout the country.
Agents of Change launches in communities around the world. The Unbound platform allows donors to support local, community-led solutions to poverty.
$2 billion

Thanks to our generous community of supporters, Unbound reaches $2 billion in total revenue since our founding in 1981, continuing to send resources where they are needed most.

Pope Francis’ book “Sharing the Wisdom of Time” debuts. It features stories of more than 20 Unbound sponsored elders and a reflection from former sponsored youth and current staff member Yenifer Valencia Morales of Colombia. Yenifer represents Unbound at the Oct. 23 book launch event at the Vatican and meets the pope.
Unbound staffer Yenifer Valencia Morales walks through St. Peter's Square in Vatican City before meeting Pope Francis.
Unbound staffer and former sponsored child Yenifer visits with sponsored elder Olga in Olga’s home in Tarso, Colombia.
Unbound’s cash transfer model gives families a lifeline in the pandemic.
Unbound celebrates 40 years
of walking with families on their paths out of poverty.
In celebration of 40 years on the road with families, join us as we share 40 lessons we’ve learned as we walk the path together.