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Finding a C.U.R.E.: Medical supply distribution center now in West Grove

03/29/2016 12:05PM ● Published by Richard Gaw

By Richard L. Gaw
Staff Writer

When George Hatzfeld, a long-time volunteer hospital assessor for Project C.U.R.E. (Commission on Urgent Relief and  Equipment) first thought about establishing a Mid-Atlantic medical supply distribution center for the world-wide agency, he thought Philadelphia would be a great place for it.
There were already five distribution centers up and running, "but none of them were east of the Susquehanna River," said Hatzfeld, who had spent his career working in the hospital system in Philadelphia. Project C.U.R.E. began fundraising to establish an eastern distribution center in 2012, and soon after, Dave Haradon of the Longwood Rotary Club approached Hatzfeld, telling him that there may be some available space at Dansko in West Grove that he may want to take a look at.
And there it was -- a 60,000 square-foot warehouse of available space near the shoe company's headquarters on Federal Road  -- that could serve as the distribution hub for millions of medical supplies across the globe. Hatzfeld explained his dream to Dansko founder Peter Kjellerup and Daria Payne, Dansko's Director of Facility Management, and a collaboration between a company and a cause soon began. Further, everywhere Hatzfeld went, he was told that Chester County was ripe with volunteer armies, from schools, hospitals, retirement centers, businesses and organizations -- who could help load supplies, count inventory, and create a shared experience of giving. 
"My eyes grew bigger and my mind started racing," Hatzfeld said. "I realized that I had been brought to the place where people who wanted to volunteer for Project C.U.R.E. could do so, and in a way that is unmistakable. I thought, 'We are in a hub of opportunity.'
The location, too, was perfect.
"All I had to do was go to Google maps and look at where this was, and say that we're an hour and change from Baltimore, we're a couple of hours from New York City, we have Chester County and Philadelphia in our backyard, and some of the finest medical facilities in the world, peopled by folks who share the same conscience that we do."
Project C.U.R.E. was founded in 1987 by Dr. James Jackson, who was working as an international economic consultant in developing countries. During a trip to Brazil, Dr. Jackson visited a small clinic near Rio de Janeiro, where he learned that patients were often turned away due to a lack of basic medical supplies. After returning to the United States, Jackson, with the assistance of friends in the medical industry, collected $250,000 of medical supplies in his garage in one month, that were later distributed to medical doctors in Brazil.
Since its founding, Project C.U.R.E. has reached patients, families and children in 130 countries, and is an industry leader in developing new ways to provide the highest quality donated medical supplies and equipment possible to resource-limited communities across the globe, including efficient and accurate inventory systems, supply chain management, expert management of logistics and strong in-country relationships. Project C.U.R.E. distributions help to bridge staggering health resource gaps in the developing world by empowering doctors and nurses with the tools they need to treat disease, deliver vaccines, perform life-changing surgeries and ensure safe childbirth.
Through the compassion of Project C.U.R.E.'s supporters, hospitals, rural clinics and community health centers all over the world are able to offer quality care and critical medical services to their most vulnerable patients, especially women and young children. Every week, two to three cargo containers of life-saving aid leave Project C.U.R.E.’s warehouses.
Now, a little less than one year after the distribution center first opened its doors, the culmination of everything Hatzfeld imagined is coming to fruition in West Grove. Nearly one-quarter of the massive warehouse is filled with a carefully-arranged inventory of supplies that have been donated by area hospitals, medical manufacturers, local physicians, medical centers and local residents. In addition to its growing inventory, the facility is also a meeting place for volunteers, who have come from The Technical College High School, from the Senior Circle at Jennersville Regional Hospital, The Garage Community & Youth Center, from Unionville and Kennett High Schools, as well as from Dansko employees. 
Although the West Grove facility now serves as one of six distribution centers in the United States, it is also the newest.  Kathy Hrenko, operations director for the Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center, said the focus right now is on increasing inventory, and establishing both medical and volunteer partnerships.
"We are in the process of meeting with several hospitals and medical suppliers, starting locally and working our way out, in order to get them to say, 'Yes, we would like to make contributions to Project C.U.R.E.,'" Hrenko said. "I have to say that it's already a win-win for everyone. If these items were once intended for the garbage, and now that they can go to serve other people, everyone's happy about that, whether you're a manufacturer or an individual.
"Everything that comes through our doors has to be counted and sorted and inventoried, and all of the work that's done in our warehouse is done by community volunteers," Hrenko added. "There are a lot of moving parts that are still being worked on."
An official grand opening for the Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center is planned for later this year, in conjunction with the acquisition of a transportation truck that Project C.U.R.E. recently received a grant to purchase. The acquisition will begin the center's inaugural procurement of materials -- part of a 14-step process of receiving and delivering supplies. After the distribution vechile leaves the distribution center, it will deliver supplies to a destination port, where the container(s) will clear customs, and eventually arrive at a receiving health facility in another country.
Project C.U.R.E. requires a hospital assessment for all of the shipments that leave its distribution centers. Sponsors fun containers with equipment and supplies that closely match those needs, and are received duty-free as humanitarian aid in one or more hospitals in an assessment.
Initially, the goal of the center will be to distribute six 40-foot-long, sea-going containers filled with medical materials this year. Eventually, the goal will be to distribute one container a week.
Priority one, however, is simple: to create a volunteer base between 2,000 and 3,000 people.
"If you look at the entire organization, there are only 23 full-time employees, but there are 17,000 volunteers across our distribution centers," Hrenko said. "Our headquarters in Denver, for instance, has as many as 60 volunteer groups come every month to its distribution center, which is about the same size as the our facility. We have no doubt that as we continue to spread the word, we will attract the volunteer base we need, quickly.
"Recently, we hosted a group from a nearby high school, who were helping sort medical supplies into their proper receptacles," she added. "I told them that they're the ones who put these items in a box that will someday -- hopefully -- save a life on the other side of the world."
If you have an item you wish to donate to Project C.U.R.E.'s Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center, or if you or your organization or business would like to have establish volunteer opportunities at the center, call Kathy Hrenko at 610-345-0410, or visit www.projectcure.org. The website includes a list of procurement items that will be accepted, as well as online volunteer registration for the Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center. 
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail rgaw@chestercounty.com.





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