Tucked away in an unassuming warehouse in the Glendale area are the things that can help the sick, the injured, the impoverished.
This is the hub of the Humanitarian Resource Center of North America, a nonprofit "gathering organization" that tries to bring together items from existing charities to help the less fortunate, according to Chris Johnson, assistant executive director.This nondenominational center is not affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' newly renamed Humanitarian Service Center.
The Humanitarian Resource Center of North America primarily handles medical equipment, including such things as crutches, bandages, cotton balls, wooden tongue depressors, thermometers, blood pressure cuffs, scalpels, sutures, catheters and other types of medical goods.
The center does not carry any drugs.
Also stocked are clothing, blankets and toiletries for homeless people.
The center collects surplus items from hospitals, charitable groups or businesses and distributes them to various established charities in the United States and other countries.
"In 1997, we participated in 169 projects in 35 different countries," said Johnson. "We also have provided support to different states. Utah is by far and away the largest recipient of our supplies done through partnership with 45 different organizations."
The center has been operating officially for a little less than two years and, unofficially, it has been helping people for more than seven years.
The idea is to make sure that clean, unused surplus materials not go to waste - but there's no sense creating another service provider.
Instead, the Humanitarian Resource Center acts as a clearinghouse and distributor of necessary items.
"Our power is in partnerships," said Johnson. "Why go out and create a service for the homeless that is already being provided by some other organization? Why not spend our energy gathering resources and using those to support organizations that already are good at what they're doing - and help them be better at it?"
For example, surgeons in American hospitals sometimes use only one or two instruments in a sterilized tray of medical instruments and supplies, which usually are discarded after the operation. However, Johnson said many remaining items can be resterilized and repackaged for use elsewhere.
"Instead of putting all that waste into landfills, we're able to get it off to another location where they can use it," Johnson said. "It becomes a win-win situation. They (the hospitals) are able to reduce their disposal charges, it's environmentally better, and it helps thousands of people in a setting who would not be able to have access to those goods."
Six health clinics in rural Mexico have benefited from the center's help. Recently, the center dispatched a 53-foot truck filled with medical equipment and furniture to ready an essentially empty building for patients in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico.
Locally, the center assists the Fourth St. Homeless Clinic, Salt Lake Donated Dental Services, the Homeless Youth Resource Center, Helping Hands World-Wide and other organizations that help homeless people and battered women.
The center employs two full-time and four part-time workers as well as getting help from a full-time volunteer. Like all such organizations, it struggles to stay afloat financially.
Paperwork is a big task. "It's necessary for Internal Revenue Service regulations to put a price on every donation that comes in and track where it came from and where it's going," Johnson said. "It takes a fair amount of labor to get that stuff through."
But it's worth it, Johnson said.
The next project is to obtain 1,000 quilts for battered women's shelters nationwide to be distributed in October in observance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For information, call 977-0444.