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Please Forgive Me with Toby Capps


You know Toby Capps' big cheerful voice from the unboxing parties of years past. Now meet the man behind the voice; a man who changed a corporation and in the process, changed untold thousands of lives in Africa during the AIDS pandemic. Get your tissues ready because in this episode we will cry with Toby, laugh with Toby, and get to know a man whose life can only be described as very well lived.


McKesson healthcare, McKesson medical supplies, pharmaceuticals, Boy Scouts, Lusaka, Zambia, South Africa, HIV/AID pandemic, Eagle Scount, Sew Powerful


We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.


The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.


Host: Jan Cancila

Guest: Toby Capps


Jan Cancila, Host 00:04

Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So let's get started.


Jan 00:19

Today makes two weeks in a row that we will have had the opportunity to talk to gentlemen who volunteer their time to Sew Powerful. Meet Toby Capps. You will recognize Toby the minute you hear his cheerful voice, because he has been one of the co-hosts of the Sew Powerful Facebook Live Unboxing Parties in years past. But there is a whole lot more to Toby's involvement than calling out names and lifting boxes for Sew Powerful. We're going to explore Toby's role with Sew Powerful, but also with his other nonprofit work, his extensive career experience, and we'll get a peek into his family life, too. What brings Toby here today is the story he wrote and which was published in the We Are Sew Powerful book. The title of Toby's story is, Please Forgive Me. And we are going to learn why forgiveness was requested in just a little while. Welcome Toby Capps.


Toby Capps, Guest 01:24

Good morning, Jan, thanks so much for having me.


Jan 01:27

Oh, we're so glad you're here. You have quite the career and we're going to start out there and we'll get to the relationship here to Sew Powerful in just a moment. But you work for McKesson in their Health Care division. I believe it's called their Medical Surgical division. Tell us about your job and tell us a little bit about the company.


Toby 01:49

Well, McKesson is the largest company in the medical industry. We're a 186 year old corporation that basically provides everything that goes into any type of medical facility, all the medical surgical supplies, the pharmaceuticals, the medications, the equipment, electronic medical records. But most people generally have never heard of McKesson, even though we're the sixth largest corporation in America. Everybody knows Johnson & Johnson and Kimberly Clark, and all those folks. We actually sell all of their products for them so we're a distributor of about 300,000 different medical items. So I work with with customers in the medical industry, whether it be clinics or surgery centers, or small hospitals, lots of different types of facilities, doctors offices, I have some national accounts. Now we just provide everything that they need to get through a day in the business of being a doctor.


Jan 02:51

Wow. And do you travel in your job?


Toby 02:54

I used to travel quite a bit, as a matter of fact.


Jan 02:57

Well, true.


Toby 02:57

We have roughly 85,000 employees that are all working out of their homes. And we have not been able to travel since he first of April and that's going through at least the end of the year. So it's been a very, very different experience for all of us, as you well know. It's pretty unique, doing what we do without actually being able to see people face to face.


Jan 03:20

Prior to April were you covering the US or did you have global responsibilities?


Toby 03:26

I have some national accounts that I'm responsible for, but primarily, all my local business is in the Pacific Northwest. So I'm in the Seattle market where I live.


Jan 03:36

Now, McKesson has a history with World Vision with Caregiver Kits. Can you tell us about that program? And is it still active?


Toby 03:46

Sure, I'd be glad to. It's been a major part of my life. In fact, it truly changed my life. About 16 years ago, right at the peak of the AIDS pandemic, when roughly 6000 people a day were dying of AIDS across the world. Dana Buck, actually, from World Vision, who I served on the Worship Team at our church with


Jan 04:11

So that's the connection?


Toby 04:13

That's the connection. Dana and I, our kids were friends in school, so we knew each other as school parents. But we went to the same church along with Pastor Kevin LaRoche, who's also a Board member of Sew Powerful. The three of us served together on the Worship Team, and World Vision had just had a group come back from Africa that had said one of the most important things that they could do to impact the AIDS pandemic would be to supply these much-needed medical supplies to the Caregivers who were spending their entire day caring for people who are sick and dying of AIDS.


Toby 04:53

And they had made this presentation to Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, which is one of the biggest churches in the country, to tell them about what they were doing in Africa. And timing happened to be perfect, where the folks from Menlo Park said, Okay, we'll do 8000 of these kits on Easter weekend, during Compassion Weekend. And Dana and his team that were on the phone with them said, That's wonderful. We'll look forward to discussing this further, hung up the phone and said, Where are we going to get 8000 boxes of gloves and jars of Vaseline and all the things that went into the kits?


Toby 05:34

So Dana, really, just knew that I worked for McKesson, didn't really know much about what McKesson did, or he just knew that I was in that industry. So he contacted me and I went and met with the team at World Vision, and we discussed what was going on in Africa. Frankly, I was very naive to what was happening on that side of the world. And my heart was broken, the very first meeting that we had. And so I was able to put together this plan to get us 8000 of each of the items for this event in Northern California. We had an amazing experience, a three day weekend. We had, Princess Zulu from Zambia came and, and spoke to our congregation of about 3000 people and broke our hearts. And we realized that this was something that we could do that truly had impact on the pandemic and could impact folks all around the United States as well as the world. And so that was really the beginning of the Caregiver Kit program.


Jan 06:42

So had McKesson ever done any thing like this before, that you're aware of?


Toby 06:47

Well, no, it was very different than anything that we've ever done. What we ended up doing was creating partnerships with churches and corporations and community groups all across the United States to come together as groups and assemble these Caregiver Kits, which were about 15 different basic items that we take for granted here, cotton balls and antifungal cream and things like that, that they just don't have access to in Africa. And then they come together as groups and build these and then we ship them to a number of different countries in Africa.


Toby 07:25

And so traditionally, at McKesson national sales meetings (and I've been going to sales meetings for 45 years for different corporations) we would get this nice $75 golf shirt that had an embroidered logo with the theme of the sales meeting on it, and we get a nice portfolio pad that at the end of the meeting, you just throw in the closet with the 50 others there. And and we had a brand new President at McKesson at the time, Brian Tyler, who's now the CEO of McKesson, and I just asked him what he thought about doing something different this year, and taking all that money we were spending on these things for the reps that we really didn't need, and see if we could do something that would impact the world. And we talked about what was happening in Africa and and the way that we could approach it. And Brian stuck his neck out and said, Let's do it.


Toby 08:25

And so we had a sales meeting with several thousand employees. And in the middle of that meeting, we spent an entire afternoon all assembling these Caregiver Kits. We had Princess Zulu come and speak to everyone, talking about how she had lost her parents and her her siblings to AIDS and her aunts and uncles and how 6000 people a day were dying. And so here's all this group of Type A personalities, tears coming down our cheeks, assembling these kits. And it totally changed us as a corporation. The rest of the week I had reps from all over the country that had been with the Corporation for for decades saying how this was the best thing that McKesson had ever done and how proud they were to be part of this organization. And, and so from then on every single sales meeting, we've done some sort of community outreach project at our sales meetings and so much more impactful than another golf shirt.


Jan 09:33

Toby, you've changed the world. I mean, this is bringing tears to my eyes. I mean, this is amazing. Sometimes people have these ideas, but they don't have the courage to take them up the ladder to protect their career or whatever. You can't see this, listeners, but I'm wiping tears from my eyes. That's amazing.


Toby 09:54

It was very difficult for us to be part of it without having tears in our eyes. For, for over a decade, we did over 1800 events around the country. You know, Princess Zulu really changed all of our lives with her stories. And then when we traveled to Africa, the Caregivers that we traveled with, and the the patients that we met, the people over there just absolutely changed our lives. And it was a labor of love that took us over 10 years, and then that moved right into Sew Powerful. So Dana and Jason and Kevin and I have been very blessed to be part of this for an awfully long time now.


Jan 10:37

So you've gone to several African countries, your role with McKesson. And in fact, one of those trips is the basis for this story called Please Forgive Me. And as I read that title, I'm thinking, my goodness, what did what did Toby do that that we need to forgive him for? But you're going to tell us a little bit about that trip, but specifically about what inspired that story.


Toby 11:02

Well, it was one of the things, frankly, where God kind of smacked me upside of the head. This was our very first trip to Africa. We were in South Africa at the time in an area development program for World Vision called Oomson Vubu [actual spelling unknown]. And Oomson Vubu was, the best way I can describe it was if Disney put together an African village, they would have designed this village in Oomson Vubu, there were rolling hills with beautiful green grass as far as you could see. And these little huts on tops of little hilltops that were painted amazing colors, beautiful pink and, and mint green and yellow. And it was unlike any other place I'd ever been in Africa.


Toby 11:57

So we'd had an appointment to meet a Caregiver who was going to talk to us about the program in that particular village. And so we climbed up this hill to her home, which was just a small, small little hut and chickens running around the floor, and a couple of her kids were there waiting for us, but she wasn't there. So we waited and just, were enjoying the view. And we saw it from a distance this lady in this big hat running up the trail to get to the top of the hill. And when she got up there, she's gasping for breath and you could tell she felt so embarrassed that she'd kept these visitors waiting. And she said (sorry), said, Please forgive me, I was burying one of my neighbors. Please forgive me, I was burying one of my neighbors. And then she just proceeded to show us her her little hut and talk to us about about being a Caregiver, as if this was just another normal day of the week. Please forgive me, I was burying one of my neighbors. So here we were, just brilliant people from America ready to save the world and got over there and realized how different life for them was, than anything we had ever experienced. And so she just teared a place in my heart that can never be forgotten.


Jan 13:56

That's obvious, Toby, thank you for sharing that with us. I can see, but our listeners obviously can't, you have some photos on the wall behind you. And you mentioned to me earlier that they're from a trip that you took to Africa. Tell us particularly about the photo in the middle.


Toby 14:14

Well the photo in the middle was the very first person dying of AIDS that I had the opportunity to meet. And it was in South Africa again. We were told we were going to go meet him at his home, which was again a small hut, and I don't know if you can see in the picture, but it's made of mud and there are cracks. There are cracks in the wall where you can see the sunlight coming through the cracks. And and he was just on this little mattress laying on the ground on the floor of the hut covered with a blanket. And and so I didn't know what to expect and, but I had heard from everyone that the thing that every AIDS patient missed the most was a human touch, that once they were diagnosed with AIDS, no one would ever, would ever touch them again.


Toby 15:12

And so we all felt that it was so important that we would at least shake people's hands. And so I bent down to shake his hand, and it was just an amazing experience. But the thing that was most amazing about it, and why I cherish that picture, is what seemed like taking five minutes from laying down to pushing himself hand by hand, to sitting up so he could greet me and so we would have a place to sit in his home. It was, it was so important to him to be able to show hospitality to these guests, that we made him sit up so he could greet us. And so that that picture was just iconic for me, a moment I'll never forget and and one that I will cherish forever, obviously, and a memory that I'll cherish forever.


Jan 16:13

Well, Toby, why don't we take a break here. And when we come back, we're going to talk about your involvement specifically with Sew Powerful and how your experiences in Africa sort of tie that all together.


Toby 16:28



Jan 16:32

Have you gotten the second edition of the We Are Sew Powerful book? This updated version of the original bestseller (4.9 out of five stars, by the way) is again authored by Sew Powerful co-founders, Jason and Cinnamon Miles. It is available on Amazon in paperback or for your Kindle reader. This latest edition is packed full of moving stories about how Sew Powerful came to be, the volunteers who make it happen and the way this small movement has grown into a global mission to break the cycle of poverty through education and the dignity of work. And don't forget, when you place your order, if you use and designate Sew Powerful as your preferred charity, Amazon will donate a portion of your purchase right back to Sew Powerful. And now back to our podcast.


Jan 17:39

Welcome back. We've been speaking with Toby Capps. He's been sharing with us his background and the work that he did with McKesson Medical Surgical division, to make a major impact on AIDS patients in Africa, and going forward how McKesson interacts with those in need. We're going to talk a little bit now about the role that Toby plays with Sew Powerful and get into some of his other volunteer activities. So let's start with Sew Powerful. What inspired you to get involved with Sew Powerful, Toby?


Toby 18:17

Well, it was on our second trip. This trip that I just described, I had taken my middle daughter with me on the trip. On our second trip, I took my wife Janairie with me. And during that trip is when we visited Esther's school in Lusaka, Zambia, in Ngombe Compound, which was a very unique part of Lusaka, in an area where, at the time, there were about 400 children being taught by Esther and a few other teachers. There were 400 kids that were single- and double orphans, meaning that either one or both of their parents had died of AIDS. And they, at the time, were getting one meal of what we would think of as oatmeal. They were getting one little bowl of oatmeal a day, provided by the government and that was their food. And they hadn't been exposed to white people before. And so we went there and this school, just, the experiences there were seared in each of our hearts.


Toby 19:29

And there were moments where I had five kids on each hand, holding my hand, and kids wanting to look at my hair because what we didn't know at the time was that men died before their hair turned gray. So they they never saw people with gray hair. And Janairie has blonde hair, and they were amazed by that and and, you know, here were kids that, frankly, had absolutely nothing but they were some of the happiest people I've ever seen in my entire life. And so Jason Miles had worked with Dana at World Vision for many, many years; Jason was in charge of the trip. It broke his heart. Bob Pierce, the founder of World Vision, had a very famous line that says, "Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." And this was, this was one of the things that broke our hearts.


Toby 20:34

And so it wasn't long after we got back from that trip that Jason said, We have to do something to support that school. And so right away he and Cinnamon started supporting Esther and started supporting the school. He very quickly, because David Derr and Kevin LaRoche and Dana and Jason and I had worked together for years on the Caregiver Kit program, we were like the Four Musketeers that were always getting into these crazy ideas and crazy things that we thought we could do to impact the world. And so he has to join with him in being part of this program and supporting Esther. And Cinnamon was an amazing seamstress and just had this vision for what they could do through sewing to impact the girls, in particular, and in turn, impact the women in the village. And so it was just all of us working together on another dream to do things way bigger than ourselves. And so we were thrilled to join with them in this project.


Jan 21:50

Well, besides your support for Sew Powerful, which our focus is on keeping the girls in school, you focus on boys because you're very involved in the Boy Scouts. Can you talk a little bit about that?


Toby  22:04

The Boy Scouts is another huge part of my life. I joined scouting roughly 55 years ago, on my eighth birthday as a little Cub Scout in Wenatchee, Washington. We were kind of in a Leave it to Beaver kind of town where parents would get involved in all their kids activities. And so my parents joined Scouting basically the same time that I did and my Dad became a Cub Master and a Scoutmaster for almost 40 years. And so I went through Scouting, I became an Eagle Scout. I then became the National Representative for the Boy Scouts of America, where I traveled the country for a couple years on behalf of the organization and served on the National Executive Board of the Boy Scouts at the time. And so that I began my career in Scouting and you know, decades down the road. And my son went through Scouting as well, became an Eagle Scout. And I'm involved to this day in a variety of the regional and national positions in Scouting. And it's very, very important to me and another passion that that I'm blessed to be part of.


Jan 23:22

Do you see any similarities between the objectives or the operations of the Boy Scouts and Sew Powerful? Is there a bridge there that you're making?



Well, there, there is, there's there's a couple things. The motto of the Boy Scouts, the Oath and Law of the Boy Scouts, there's things that everybody knows about Scouting. One of them is to do a good turn daily. Another one is to help other people at all times. That's one of the tenets of the Scout Oath. And it seems like between Scouting and World Vision and Sew Powerful, we all have the opportunity to serve as servant leaders. And so yeah, Scouting is very, very similar. There's so many opportunities for outreach and, and there's kids doing service projects all across the country, all around the world (Scouting is in almost 200 countries around the world) and kids doing amazing things every single day just just like we try to do with seamstresses all around the world at Sew Powerful. But that same same desire to help other people at all times. So yeah, very similar.


Jan 24:40

Both you and your wife Janairie are Board Members for Sew Powerful and Dana Buck sort of spilled the beans last week when I interviewed him and I asked him about the Board Meeting. So he said before the time of COVID (which I've talked about, that we're in now) that you and your wife Janairie would host a dinner at your home, and probably everyone would get to see the pictures that I can see on our zoom call here. But besides a fantastic dinner, can you give us some insights into a Board Meeting for Sew Powerful?


Toby 25:15

Well, Board Meetings are always a great opportunity to get together with these dear friends that we have just stood shoulder to shoulder with for so many years, in so many projects around the world. And my wife is blessed with the gift of hospitality, and she loves, loves when people come to our home and, and she'll spend a couple days cleaning. Our house looks spotless, but she has to clean the whole thing anyway and make a wonderful meal for our guests. And then we sit around this table where I'm at right now and you're right, these these pictures of Africa are in the background. And it kind of puts us in a in a mood to discuss the things we're involved with around the world.


Toby 26:04

And so the first thing we do is we pray for all of the seamstresses around the world that are impacted by this program. We we pray for the children in Africa that this program supports. We pray for the moms and the folks that we desperately try to help through the farm and through the medical clinic and in all the different aspects of Sew Powerful. And and then we spent a lot of time talking about what we jokingly call "God Things" and and those are so many different instances where something unexplainable has happened to grow this program and to support this program.


Toby 26:49

And David Derr is a perfect example where, at one of our Board Meetings, Jason was talking about the fact that the government had given up funding to feed the children at Esther's School, which at that time, had grown to about 1200 people. And he happened to be in a meeting with David Derr, who also worked with them at World Vision, and had mentioned this about our program in Lusaka. And David said, Well, I own a 10 acre farm, just outside of Lusaka. Yeah, it turns out that he and his wife have this farm that they bought because they'd adopted two children from Zambia, that they weren't doing anything with. And he said, Well, let's make this farm part of what you do at Sew Powerful, and let's try to feed these kids. And so we have moments like that, where just amazing things happened to grow the program. So we talk about those. And then then we talk about our dreams and what we can do differently to to grow the program, then we talk about how to support people like you who are doing amazing things, just on their own around the world that just blow us away each and every day. And so it's really a fun group to be part of, but it's just great to be with our friends and and dream big and see what we can take on next.


Toby 27:52

Do you have a message for people who are out there making purses? You've seen the impact of those purses, I presume. Tell us about why we should continue to do that.


Toby 28:28

Everybody says that I spend way too much time on Facebook and it's actually true. But I am just amazed at how many people from all around the world are posting things on Facebook about their purses, and and how this program has impacted them and figuring out what to write in their notes. And, and I know, in both the Caregiver Kit program that we did before and and in Sew Powerful's work, that note card that you write has an impact that you just cannot even imagine.


Toby 29:08

We see people who have tears coming down their face as they're writing a note card to a young girl. And then on the other side when we've distributed purses, or kits or whatever it may be. We see children and women with tears coming down their face because they can't believe someone from America or someone from around the world took the time to write them a note encouraging them. And you just cannot imagine the impact that your passion makes on the lives of people in the world who will never be able to say thank you. So, the work that you do is incredible and we so appreciate it. And it's so fun for us at Sew Powerful to be able to get together and read each of your names, even though I terribly mispronounce them probably most of the time, and I can't figure out how to pronounce your cities. But we just so desperately want to say thank you to each and every person who takes the time to support this program. Couldn't do it without you.


Jan 30:15

Well, let's wrap it up there, Toby. Thank you so much. Your life work has been an inspiration. If ever there was a definition of a life well lived, it would have a picture of Toby Capps right next to it. So thank you for your time today. It was a pleasure to speak with you.


Toby 30:33

Thank you, Jan.


Jan 30:34

Okay, we'll talk soon. Bye.


Toby 30:35



Jan 30:39

If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference, I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.


Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at