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Chester County Press

Getting help where it's needed

10/27/2016 12:43PM ● By J. Chambless

A ribbon-cutting was held Oct. 26 at the warehouse in West Grove.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

Moving surplus medical supplies from America to countries in desperate need around the world is what Project C.U.R.E. is all about. On Oct. 26, the organization took its latest step forward with a celebration at its distribution center in West Grove.

Established in 1987, Project C.U.R.E. is the world's largest distributor of medical donations to developing countries. They operate distribution centers in Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, Illinois, Arizona and Pennsylvania, where they pack shipping containers and get them to more than 130 countries. The excess medical supplies and equipment from hospitals and medical manufacturers can mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people around the world.

On Oct. 26, Peter Kjellerup, the CEO of Dansko, which previously operated out of the warehouse, said he met Doug Jackson of Project C.U.R.E. in Denver, Colo., where the organization is headquartered, and was struck by “their passion and compassion, and everything they do, out of the goodness of their heart,” he said. “I was convinced that Project C.U.R.E. should also be on the East Coast. What's beginning here today is a very exciting future that will impact millions of people around the world.”

The West Grove distribution center opened in June 2015, but a recent partnership with AmerisourceBergen, a global healthcare solutions company based in Chesterbrook, has meant a world of difference. The company provided a $50,000 grant that paid for a new truck to pick up supplies at regional hospitals and health centers and transport it all to the distribution center.

Project C.U.R.E. president and CEO Doug Jackson spoke at the event on Oct. 27, pointing out his mother and father in the crowd. “My mom and dad were the ones who started Project C.U.R.E.,” he said. “My dad was doing economic development, real-estate development, all those kinds of things, in Colorado. He figured out that you can get rich and not be happy. He was doing economic consulting in Brazil, and his interpreter was a medical student who took him to a clinic that had nothing in it. It just tore his heart out. He came back and called one of his buddies who had a medical wholesale company, and he filled dad's garage full of medical supplies. Mom and dad shipped that down to Brazil, and that's the genesis of Project C.U.R.E.”

The group does a needs-assessment visit before any supplies are shipped, Jackson said. “We don't ship anything until we go to the other country and see what those people need,” he said. “Last year, we did 350 needs assessments at hospitals all over the world.

“This container,” Jackson said, gesturing toward the huge shipping container behind him, “is on its way to Rwanda. We know the people at that clinic, and we know how this is going to change their world. That's what this is all about. This year, we will send 180 of these semi-truck trailers into the poorest places in the world.”

In some countries, he said, “our average client works 12 hours a day and makes a dollar. You just can't afford health care. There are people who will die today because they don't have sutures. How stupid is that? They are $4. We can change that world.”

The recent partnership with AmerisourceBergen, he said, could not have been a better fit. The company is one of the largest global pharmaceutical sourcing and distribution companies, offering drug distribution logistics, reimbursement and pharmaceutical consulting services for both human and animal health. With more than $140 billion in annual revenue, AmerisourceBergen is ranked No. 12 on the Fortune 500 list.

Steven Collis, the chairman, president and CEO of AmerisourceBergen, said that the company's recent establishment of a foundation to facilitate the nonprofit side of the business has paid off in West Grove. “I'm from South Africa, which has extremes of poverty,” Collis said. “My wife and I work with kids who are in single-kid households, where the older brother or sister runs the household. There are thousands and thousands of them. There are so many good charities, but if you don't have health care, nothing else matters. We're proud to be a part of this first distribution center on the East Coast.”

Gina Clark, the executive vice president and chief marketing officer for AmerisourceBergen, heads the new foundation. “The exciting thing is that we can shape health care delivery through our foundation. We are still a young foundation, but we know that this is exactly where we want to head,” she said.

Speaking after the ribbon-cutting, Clark said, “Our foundation has been in operation for not quite three years. Really, in the last year, we've tightened up our focus to be focused on meeting the needs in under-served communities. Our pillars are really health care, community and education, but we've tightened them up to look at those under-served communities.”

In many countries, the supply distribution chain is blocked with corruption and workers demanding bribes, but “we work with people in those countries who help us navigate around that,” Clark said. “Even in Rwanda, where this shipment is being delivered, we have somebody on the ground there who helps us manage. Yes, corruption is rampant everywhere, but we are determined to not let that stand in the way of us doing this.”

The products that arrive in these countries can be simple first-aid supplies, or as advanced as patient beds and hospital screening equipment.

The foundation has recently awarded a $250,000 grant to support the construction of a new medical distribution center in Haiti, which remains crippled following a devastating earthquake and, most recently, a hurricane.

“When the Partners in Health organization brought to us this need in Haiti, they knew about our distribution expertise,” Clark said. “They said, 'Right now, the distribution center in Haiti is literally a cardboard building.' Now it's not even that, because the hurricane blew it away. They asked us if we would get involved with building a bricks-and-mortar center, and beyond that, sending some distribution experts over to help set it up and train people on how to manage it. We saw that as a perfect connection to our mission as a foundation and as a company. It was a very nice fit.”

For more information on Project C.U.R.E., visit www.projectcure.org. For more information on AmerisourceBergen, visit www.amerisourcebergen.com.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.


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