OBI was founded on November 14, 1978, by businessman and philanthropist, M.G. Robertson. The nonprofit was originally set up to help struggling individuals and families by matching their needs for items (such as clothing, appliances and vehicles) with donated items from viewers of The 700 Club, Robertson's daily television program. By linking arms with local churches and other organizations, OBI expanded their matching funds program to also include food provisions and financial assistance for low-income families. In 1990, Operation Blessing began moving from individual assistance to helping fund outreach centers across the U.S. who provide a broad, community impact through their partnerships with local ministries, food pantries, shelters and more.
Internationally, OBI continued to expand its medical, hunger and disaster relief efforts and, in 1986, Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation was officially incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. By its 10th anniversary, OBI had spent $40 million of its own funds worldwide, and through key partnerships with other organizations, had leveraged that amount to provide approximately $196 million in aid. From 1996-2000, OBI commissioned The Flying Hospital, a specially equipped L1011 jet aircraft that provided facilities for world-class medical/surgical services to thousands of people in developing countries and disaster-stricken areas. Today, OBI is ranked one of the top 100 largest charities in America by The NonProfit Times and has repeatedly filled the role of “logistical arm” to organizations including the International Red Cross, FEMA, UNICEF, The Salvation Army and the United Nations’ World Food Programme.