For years, Southtowne member Lauren Alexander worked as a volunteer at Sacred Heart Hospital. When RiverBend opened, new equipment and supplies were purchased, and there was a surfeit of older, usable materials. Lauren suggested to hospital staff that, as a Rotarian, he could probably find a good use for those materials, and thus began Lauren’s second career, as procurer and supplier extraordinaire of medical equipment and supplies for developing countries.
Lauren has been involved in the hospital supply distribution of 7 or 8 container loads that have gone to countries such as Honduras, Ivory Coast (West Africa), Ethiopia, People’s Republic of Congo, and Ghana. Those large shipments have included everything from hospital beds and gurneys to bed linens and scrubs. In addition, smaller volumes of supplies have been carried as checked baggage to Uganda, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Kenya, as well as boxes shipped to the Philippines. He often works with other Rotary clubs or other partners (e.g. Holt International and Ghana Hope Foundation) to make the shipments happen.
One shipment came about as a result of a TV program called “Secret Millionaire” that was shot in Oakridge in which a millionaire couple gave over a million dollars to Oakridge because of their depressed economy. The gift included a new ambulance. Lauren saw the show on TV and then read an article about it in the Register Guard. He talked with the Oakridge Fire Chief, which led to a connection with Dr. Ellen Heinitz, who lives in Grants Pass. Dr. Ellen had spent part of a summer working at a clinic in the Congo, and she knew that they needed an ambulance. She offered to buy Oakland’s old ambulance to ship to Africa, but the Oakridge city council voted to donate it to her. The ambulance was loaded with medical supplies, some of which came from Lauren’s ‘stash,’ and shipped. The ambulance has arrived intact at its intended destination. The people there celebrated.
Some of the medical supplies find homes that are more local, for example Eugene Mission, St. Vincent de Paul, and several local animal rescue organizations. The Impact Mission in San Francisco has picked up items several times, and donated CPAP machines, which can’t be sent overseas, are donated to a free sleep clinic in Corvallis.
Lauren needs help moving supplies/equipment out of RiverBend to storage, loading for shipment, and organizing.