Gifts To Our Community: SOS International
HALF A MILLION POUNDS OF MEDICAL SUPPLIES ARE KEPT OUT OF LANDFILLS EACH YEAR THROUGH THE WORK THAT SOS DOES.
Since 1993, SOS International has been collecting, sorting, and distributing extra medical supplies from hospitals to developing countries to help doctors and nurses provide care. To walk through SOS’ warehouse is to see 12-foot-tall pallets of supplies that will go thousands of miles away, to anywhere from Zimbabwe to Mauritania to Nigeria. Half a million pounds of medical supplies are kept out of landfills each year through the work that SOS does.
SOS collects surplus medical supplies from over 100 hospitals in Kentucky and surrounding states. Doctors who retire often donate unused supplies and even office equipment to SOS, which SOS then uses to help clinics ramp up. SOS is one of the few accredited organizations that can test, recover, and distribute medical equipment and has a team of biomedical engineers that check each piece that comes through. While expired medical supplies cannot be used to provide health care, these supplies can be used by local high school and nursing school students as they learn the field. With JCPS doing non-traditional instruction (NTI) this fall during the pandemic, SOS has supplied kits for students so they can have hands-on experiences even when they aren’t in the classroom.
Denise Sears works to move unused medical supplies to where they are needed as part of SOS International.
President and CEO Denise Sears has a personal mission to help keep individuals healthy: her daughter, Lauren, entered the hospital for a minor issue but contracted MRSA and died in 2012. “She was my reason for getting up and breathing,” Denise says. “I was very passionate about preventing other parents from losing a child.”
While SOS has long acted globally, it became apparent in recent years — and especially during COVID-19 — that SOS had the ability to act locally. When personal protective equipment (PPE) was difficult to find in the spring of 2020, SOS was able to distribute much-needed supplies to local hospitals, fire and police departments, and senior living communities. SOS donated over a million dollars worth of product early on during the pandemic. “When we see an opportunity to enhance health, even if it’s slightly outside the immediate scope of what we do, I’m going to find the resources to make it happen,” Denise says.