Shirley’s health was deteriorating. For five years she had slept in a recliner, a behavior that was putting stress on her lungs. The doctor told her she needed to get a hospital bed. Enter Project HERO, a nonprofit organization that redistributes reusable, durable medical equipment and supplies to those in need locally, regionally and globally. The staff at HERO helped Shirley get a hospital bed, free of charge and changed her life.
These are stories that HERO executive director Joyce Newton hears every day. “It’s these types of feel good stories that let us know that we really are making a difference,”
Newton says. “It’s really a life saver for some people.”
HERO was founded in 1996 in the Fargo Moorhead area as a way to donate supplies to the global mission field. Unique to the upper Midwest, the FM area is HERO’s only location. They have hopes, however, of expanding to new cities. “There really is a need for organizations like ours,” Newton says. “Our services help people.”
Though it started as a mission effort, today HERO’s main audience is local. According to Newton, the majority of those helped are in Cass and Clay counties. While they mostly work with individuals, HERO does have approximately 100 agencies that also use their services. These services are open to anyone, regardless of age, gender or financial situation. Any of the medical supplies at HERO have a suggested handling fee. However, if a person doesn’t have the means, they don’t have to pay.
“We really do encourage anyone to use our services,” Newton says. “If you’re financially capable, you may be able to cover those who aren’t.”
HERO’s services are supported by grants as well as corporate and individual donations. Hospitals often provide excess products. Sanford Health, for instance, has partnered with HERO since they began and brings over a truck of supplies each week. HERO will accept donations from anyone as long as they are clean and in working condition. The most requested items include wheelchairs, walkers, raised toilet seats, shower chairs, lift chairs, wound care supplies, catheters, gloves, respiratory supplies,
IV supplies and syringes. Everything donated to HERO goes through a sanitation process before being redistributed. Items not suitable for local use are sent to Third World countries through medical mission teams.
In the past three years, HERO has seen substantial growth. In 2009, HERO served 1,844 individuals with over 19,000 health care items: a 51 percent increase from 2008. They supplied 38 global missions in 2009 with 85,000 lbs. of medical supplies. This year appears to be no different. In June alone, HERO took 169 orders and distributed 1,893 items. They have already supplied 28 global missions in 2010 with 42,000 lbs. of medical supplies.
Newton credits much of their success with their involvement in the community and the Chamber. “Involvement in the Chamber gives us increased awareness,” Newton says. “There are a lot of good connections made there. It has really helped us grow.”
HERO’s next big step is a new space, as they have currently outgrown their 3600 square foot warehouse space in north Moorhead. In October HERO will move to a larger facility at 5012 53rd Street South in Fargo. According to Newton, HERO is anticipating even more growth and change in the coming years. “We are one of the few places that have shown continuous growth,” she says. “The FM community has been good to us and has helped us achieve a lot.”