STAMFORD, Conn. (CBSNewYork) – Whether it’s a tornado in Oklahoma, a tsunami in Japan, or an earthquake in Haiti, whatever the disaster is, chances are that many of the relief supplies came from a 50,000-square-foot warehouse in Stamford, Connecticut.
“This is a family emergency kit. It’s a tote bag. It’s stocked with everything a family needs in an emergency,” AmeriCares communications manager Donna Porstner told WCBS 880’s Sean Adams as she showed him one of the things they send around the world in times of need. “You’ve got towels, toothpaste, razors, toilet paper, baby wipes.”
They also deliver medicine and medical supplies donated by major corporations.
“Anything as simple as pain relievers or cough and cold medicines or it could be prescription medicines – people who have heart conditions, diabetes,” she said.
It all started with one man – Bob Macauley of New Canaan – who had a paper company. In 1975, he mortgaged his home to charter a Boeing 747 jet to rescue Vietnamese orphans who were stranded by a plane crash.
News of that spread all the way to Vatican City.
“The Pope heard about it. He contacted Mr. Macauley and he asked if he could do an airlift for Poland. That was AmeriCares’ first airlift and the rest is history,” Porstner said.
“And that’s grown into an organization which has offices in six countries, which last year delivered 15 million discrete course treatments of medicine in 90 countries,” said AmeriCares President and CEO Curt Welling.
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Donations are the lifeblood that allows folks like Randy Weiss to bring relief around the globe.
“When you return from any of these trips, it certainly puts anything you do and any of the problems we think we have, into perspective, realizing how lucky we are here,” he said. “Anytime you see on the news these things happen, everyone wants to help out and do something. There’s really nothing like actually being there and being the person… that’s able to be the ones right there, kind of giving out the aid and helping.”
But AmeriCares is hard at work locally as well, responding to superstorm Sandy and helping with cleanup and rebuilding.
“Hurricane Sandy, which was the first time we’ve had a disaster of that magnitude in our own backyard, and so we were able to deploy a lot of people,” Welling said.
“Initially, we helped homeowners that needed help mucking out homes, replacing sheet rock and mold. Really trying to avoid unsafe health conditions in their homes,” Porstner said. “Sandy, we anticipate will at least be a year-long effort, if not longer.”
In the long term, their focus will be on counseling and mental health services.
“This is something that’s going to stay with these kids a real long long time and we hope that [by] providing them help and the service of counselors that we can help them avoid long-term health problems,” she said.
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