Global Links: Matching Unused Medical Supplies with Those in Need
May 31, 2018 08:19PM ● Published by North Hills Monthly magazine
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Wouldn’t it be great if organizations that have a surplus of medical supplies could avoid exiling them to landfills? And what if those same medical supplies could instead be redistributed to health care facilities in need?
Enter Global Links, an innovative, Pittsburgh-based organization that serves vulnerable communities—not only locally, but around the world.
“Global Links was founded in 1989 by three women in Pittsburgh when they noticed a substantial surplus in medical supplies that never made it back to the supply room,” said Stacy Bodow, Global Links’ outreach and engagement manager.
These superfluous supplies were not only being wasted, but became an environment issue since they were being sent to landfills. Global Links was founded to keep these supplies out of landfills and to get them to health care workers in the community who really need them.
Global Links distributes the supplies that it collects to both domestic and international locations by working with public health authorities. Internationally, Global Links works to strengthen health systems for measurable impact in the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Bodow says that their international focus has been on Latin American and Caribbean countries; however, the organization places a considerable emphasis on distributing supplies domestically as well by supporting safety net organizations that focus on the most at-risk individuals.
“We work with 26 community partners locally, typically working with organizations that serve families who are underinsured,” said Bodow. “There is a huge need for mobility devices such as walkers, canes and wheelchairs, and there is also a significant need for shower benches and incontinence supplies, which are very expensive and can be difficult for many individuals to afford. Adult briefs are a very basic necessity, but insurance often does not cover them.
“Getting these supplies to adults who are in desperate need for them can be a life changer,” she continued. “It can help these individuals maintain their independence much longer.”
Volunteers sort and pack unused medical supplies from facilities that include hospitals, senior care homes, faith-based organizations, individuals in the community, and even sports teams. They are then sorted and date checked, and the supplies are counted and redistributed.
Bodow says that Global Links also has a highly effective street team that consists of volunteers who connect with organizations to promote potential donations. The nonprofit also makes it easy to donate by allowing individuals to contribute a monetary donation directly via debit or credit card on their website. More than 40 percent of their operating budget comes directly from individual donations and the local funding community.
Global Links requires a massive collaborative effort from volunteers to process the supplies collected from the community, sort them, and then redistribute them as dictated by need. Bodow reports that Global Links’ volunteers have amassed over 19,000 hours in 2017 and have sorted 306 tons of supplies. Supplies that they accept include mobility devices, such as rolling walkers, wheelchairs, canes, and crutches, as well as adult briefs, nebulizer machines, portable suction pumps, blood pressure monitors, and oral liquid nutrition. All supplies must be unopened and not expire for 13 months.
Global Links’ volunteers are as diverse as the recipients of their services.
“We are so fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers,” Bodow said. “They come from all walks of life and cover a wide range of abilities.”
She adds that the nonprofit attracts persons of all ages and includes individuals with special needs. The entire process is so intriguing, in fact, that Global Links offers tours of its Greentree facility every first Tuesday of each month, and even welcomes corporate groups for team-building activities. Specific information about donating and volunteering can be found at www.globallinks.org.