The Rotary Club of Churchland in Portsmouth began the effort in July 2000. To date it has sent a dozen 45-foot shipping containers, in total holding more than $6 million worth of equipment, to eight different countries. Although the project is just getting started in Richmond, local hospitals, hospices and nursing homes have already donated several thousand dollars worth of supplies.
Thacher, who calls himself "a plain ol' retired salesman," has adopted a grass-roots approach to finding the needed materials. "Well, everybody goes to a doctor," he reasons. So he tells friends and fellow Rotary members to ask their physicians who might have extra medical items. "It's a very informal network right now," says Thacher.
But it works. Word of mouth has spread quickly. For instance, Joan Dyer, materials manager for CJW Medical Center, Chippenham campus, was recently trying to find a home for 16 discarded top-of-the-line hospital beds. "You would not believe how many phone calls I made," says Dyer. Much too big, much too heavy, different nonprofits said. No one wanted them. Then, Dyer heard about the Med-Link project. As soon as she called, Rotary members whisked the beds away.
From Richmond, trucks take the collected equipment to Tidewater Community College, where it's loaded into shipping containers and sent off when a freight company has extra space on a ship bound for Haiti, Honduras or another country.
Members do their best to match shipments with countries' needs. When Thacher heard there was an urgent need for sonogram equipment in Romania, he called a local dealer, hoping for leads on where to find some. Instead, the dealer donated a brand-new machine. "It's just a question of getting the word out," Thacher observes.
When he gets an unusual request, he says,"I just hate to cross my eyes and say 'Well, how am I going to ' ." Better to simply go ahead and ask around, Thacher says you never know what you'll get. Melissa Scott Sinclair
To make a donation or to volunteer with the Med-Link project, call Lloyd Thacher at 378-7878.
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