Group Collects Medical Supplies for Needy

By Popovici, Alice | National Catholic Reporter, September 14, 2012 | Go to article overview

Group Collects Medical Supplies for Needy


Popovici, Alice, National Catholic Reporter


Whenever Jan Izlar, executive director of Southwest Medical Aid in Tucson, Ariz., receives a request for something, be it a wheelchair or a set of birthing beds, she said she is always able to fulfill it.

That's because her contacts at area hospitals, clinics and hospices call her anytime they are about to upgrade their medical equipment and throw away old devices, or when they have extra supplies. Through Izlar and her contacts at local churches and community organizations, things like crutches, shower chairs, oxygenators, nebulizers, exam tables, bandages and even diapers find their way to people who need them. Sometimes these are people from the city's poor communities, or people who have lost their jobs and the health insurance that would pay for expensive medical devices, or people who are new in town and have nowhere else to go.

"Miraculously, we've always had what they need," Izlar said, even if the item isn't on hand at the moment it is requested. "People ask for something and it comes."

Izlar said the motto "finding abundance, filling need" sums up the idea behind Southwest Medical Aid, the volunteer-run nonprofit organization she started in 2005. After hearing a Salvatorian sister speak at her church about the religious order's mission, and visiting a couple of warehouses filled with various supplies for people in need--run by Salvatorians--Izlar said she was inspired to start a similar project in Tucson. (She became a Lay Salvatorian around the same time.)

"I see the waste, everyone sees the waste in medical supplies," Izlar said. And when she contacted area hospitals, she said she found that "doctors and nurses thought the same thing: 'Thank God somebody is going to recycle all these things that we have.'"

The idea of recycling is central to Southwest Medical Aid. Even supplies that can't be used for human care such as towels or sponges that are clean but no longer sterile--are donated to animal rescue groups. And Izlar said many of the organization's 30 volunteers are retired nurses. "They've got all this knowledge in their heads, they don't want to waste it," she said. The idea extends beyond the medical field.

Izlar "found a way we can actually rescue food," said volunteer Gail Topolinski, referring to the organization's collaboration with Market on the Move, a program that redistributes surplus vegetables in the Nogales, Ariz. …

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