As the death toll mounts in West Africa from Ebola, one Colorado non-profit is among the groups racing to help.
, based in Centennial, is one of the largest providers in the world of donated medical supplies and equipment to developing nations. CEO Douglas Jackson says boxes set to be shipped out hold the usual suspects: gloves, masks, gowns, tubes and bandages, as well as some unexpected items, like duct tape.
“Some of our friends in Congo, the last time we went through this, said ‘You know what you could send to us that would be really, really effective,' and I said 'What?' And they said 'duct tape,' I said like 'duct tape?,' " says Jackson. "The stuff I hang pictures with, are you kidding?”
Duct tape is critical because Ebola spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids and blood.
Project C.U.R.E. teams travel the globe, having established partnerships in more than 130 countries. A year and a half ago, Jackson visited Sierra Leone, before the outbreak.
“All the doctors and nurses that I was working with are dead because they came in contact with blood and sweat and stuff from people who were sick, and they caught the disease and they died,” says Jackson. “All the stuff that we’re sending them now is the stuff designed to create a protective layer between that health care worker and the people who are sick.”
Last year, Project C.U.R.E. shipped containers with $55 million worth of medical supplies around the world. The supplies are donated by hospitals, manufacturers, distributors and individuals. They are in perfectly good condition, but maybe came from a dented box, or they just aren’t needed anymore, like a stack of old crutches.
“I look around and every single thing you see here would have ended up in a landfill,” says Corinne Domahidy, director of Project C.U.R.E.'s overseas clinics.
Many items have exceeded a federally mandated expiration date, but communications director Jan Mazotti says there’s nothing wrong with them. “Band-Aids don’t go bad. Gloves don’t go bad. Tubing doesn’t go bad,” says Mazotti.
Inspired in Brazil
The idea to give these leftover supplies a new life was the brainchild of Douglas Jackson’s father Jim. He was a real estate developer who helped develop Winter Park ski resort and later went to work as an economic consultant. Douglas still remembers his dad’s reaction, on a trip to Brazil, when he visited a free health clinic in a slum.
"He went in and there was nothing in it," says Jackson. "And it just tore his heart out.”
Jackson’s father returned to Colorado, and launched Project C.U.R.E. in 1987. He started filling his garage with medical supplies, shipping them abroad. Now, it’s grown into an organization with huge warehouses in five states, 25 paid staffers and 17,000 volunteers.
Volunteer coordinator Millie Truitt helps oversee the sorting and packing of boxes at the Centennial warehouse. She says as the Ebola crisis has worsened, they’re working as hard as ever.
“Oh yes, yes. We're busy. And that's what we're here for," says Truitt. "We feel very blessed to be able to do this.”