In late May, a 40-foot shipping container filled with medical equipment and supplies is expected to arrive at a refugee camp in Syria.
The return address on that crate? Nampa, Idaho.
Hands of Hope Northwest, a small nonprofit organization in Canyon County, has been gathering donations of used or outdated medical supplies and equipment from various medical centers across the Treasure Valley.
It will be the sixth time Hands of Hope Northwest has sent items to Syria.
“From the reports I get, everything is needed and used,” said Todd Durbin, Hands of Hope Northwest executive director. “It’s awesome now to be able to send sterile gowns, masks and shields—everything they need.”
The organization — staffed by one full-time employee, three part-timers and more than 100 volunteers — is helping fight the COVID-19 pandemic on a global level.
This year, the organization will celebrate 25 years of bringing medical supplies to countries in need. The organization launched in the 1990s when an employee at the former Mercy Medical Center in Canyon County noticed discarded medical supplies often had life left in them.
The employee received permission from hospital administrators to salvage the supplies, leading to a 5 -foot-long crate of various medical items headed to Papua New Guinea.
“From there, the rest is history,” said Durbin, who has been with the organization for eight years.
That included rapid growth for the organization, as local doctors’ offices and hospitals offered to donate. The Hands of Hope team has stored items in a closet, a church basement and a house, outgrowing each, before ultimately building and settling into an office and warehouse space in Nampa.
St. Luke’s is one of the many organizations that provide supplies and equipment.
“St. Luke’s has enjoyed a long and rewarding relationship with Hands of Hope,” said Bill Whiting, St. Luke’s system inventory manager. “We have appreciated their expertise in sharing surplus medical supplies with those in need in other countries.
“It has been especially gratifying during the pandemic to not only support many local organizations, schools and health care facilities but also in assisting medical agencies outside of the United States.”
Last year, St. Luke’s donated more than $740,000 worth of supplies — Hands of Hope Northwest’s largest donor.
“The obvious benefits of maximizing use and reducing waste are greatly outweighed by the satisfaction of helping and serving others,” Whiting said.
Hands of Hope Northwest has now sent shipments to 77 countries.
“It’s one of those strange things where we are better known worldwide than our own valley here,” Durbin said, with a laugh.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit Idaho, Hands of Hope Northwest sent masks to a nonprofit organization in China fighting the coronavirus.
Durbin and his team then temporarily narrowed their global view locally, holding a PPE donation drive for hospitals and medical offices at Albertsons Stadium last March.
“We were able to give back to the local hospitals,” Durbin said. “We were able to help them fill in while they were waiting for their PPE orders.”
That’s not the organization’s only local effort, though. They also manage a loan program, allowing community members to borrow medical equipment, like walkers after a knee replacement surgery.
“Whatever they need to be released to go home,” Durbin said.
Daniel Mediate works in the St. Luke’s Community Engagement department.