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Project CURE

Project C.U.R.E.

Project C.U.R.E. has grown into the world’s largest distributor of donated medical relief.

By Alex Raymond

[ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN MDNEXT Q3-2022]

For thirty-five years, Project C.U.R.E. has delivered life-saving medical equipment and supplies to hospitals and clinics in more than 135 countries. The organization has delivered so many supplies that they are, in fact, the world’s largest supplier of medical relief. They are the Amazon.com of charity medical relief supplies—all of which warrants a deeper look into this incredible organization.

Let’s start with some of the incredible numbers behind the operation. On average each week, Project C.U.R.E. delivers 3 to 5 semi truck loads of medical equipment and supplies. During the height of the COVID pandemic, the organization delivered badly needed PPE for U.S. health-workers equating to 540 shipments of PPE and breaks down to 18,000 boxes sent to over 575 U.S. cities. During the challenging COVID period, they continued to execute on their global mission delivering over $60.7M worth of equipment and supplies using 183 cargo containers and touching 48 countries. Somehow they managed to open their seventh distribution center—this one in Kansas City.

How it started

In 1987, Dr. James Jackson traveled to South America as a consultant to the President of Brazil. Prior to this, he had built a successful career developing ski resort towns in Colorado. During his visit to Brazil, he toured a small medical clinic in Campinas, just outside of Rio de Janeiro. What he witnessed moved him to his core: doctors and nurses without resources to do their jobs, communities without access to basic healthcare, and people needlessly dying without hope.

Upon returning to Colorado, Jim and his wife AnnaMarie began to collect donated medical supplies to send to Brazil. Through the generosity of friends and acquaintances, they filled their garage with these donated medical supplies and paid to deliver those life-saving items to the people who needed it most. And from that first humble shipment to Brazil, the foundation of Project C.U.R.E. was laid. Over the last 30 years, Project C.U.R.E. has grown into the world’s largest distributor of donated medical relief.

Fast forward, and a young Doug Jackson thought his calling was in the business world. He spent his early adulthood earning a doctorate in Finance with a specialization in debt—specifically junk bonds. Not entirely sure where this was leading him, his father convinced him he should spend his career serving others. Doug has since built on the legacy his father started by guiding and building the organization to its current size: seven distribution centers delivering 200 semi-container loads around the world each year managed by a small staff and more than 30,000 volunteers. Between 30% and 40% of the shipping volume is tied to durable medical equipment.

The Cure Cargo program is the primary way in which the organization distributes its donated goods. This, and other elements of the supply chain underneath Project C.U.R.E., were stressed during the COVID pandemic. However, the organization adapted quickly and actually set a new record for shipments demonstrating a truly entrepreneurial spirit.

The Project C.U.R.E. International Headquarters is in South Denver; other locations include Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Nashville, Phoenix and newcomer Kansas City. Each city includes a distribution center where they accept donations of used medical supplies and equipment, and where their cadre of volunteers sort and prepare the items for shipment to locations all over the world. Each of the locations include office space for Project C.U.R.E.’s administrative, development, and operations staff and serves as the intake location for medical donations. By the way, volunteering at one of the distribution centers is a great way to get involved with Project C.U.R.E. and to give back.

I mentioned the small staff and 30,000+ volunteers. What I didn’t mention is that annually this cadre donates over 160,000 hours of service. While the numbers were hampered during the COVID lockdowns, they are rapidly returning to pre-COVID levels. Over 60% of volunteers become repeat volunteers and hundreds contribute more than 100 hours of service! The dedication is remarkable. The organization has an internal calculation to estimate the cost savings from volunteers and it places the annual number in the ballpark of $2.5M.

In addition to hospitals, medical manufacturers and distributors have contributed significantly to the goods donated. Materials include everything from hospital beds to gurneys, to anesthesia machines and infant incubators. Materials can range from new to refurbished and often qualify for tax credits for the donating organization.

One organization worth calling out for their incredible generosity is Stryker. While they have been helping Project C.U.R.E. for 15 years, in August of 2020 they announced a donation of 22,500 Emergency Relief Bed (ERB) kits, representing the single largest donation to the organization to date. The bed donation was spurred by the expectation that hospitals would run low on bed space during the COVID pandemic. Stryker responded by developing the low-cost, limited-release emergency response bed—designed specifically to serve on the front lines of the pandemic. When U.S. surges didn’t ultimately hit the thresholds set to trigger use of the ERBs, Stryker worked with Project C.U.R.E. to distribute the beds into parts of the world that did have the need. The ERB kit includes a bed frame, mattress and IV pole.

In addition to the mattresses, Stryker contributed an additional 6,000 mattresses to serve as replacements as needed. The partnership with Stryker now includes a Neuro Kit, an Orthopedic Drill kit, a Spine Kit, an ENT kit and more. This partnership has literally impacted tens of thousands of lives around the globe and is an incredible reflection of the generosity of the Stryker organization which includes its board, management and employees.

Project C.U.R.E.’s corporate partners extend well beyond medical goods; companies include shipping and logistics organizations. One notable pair of partners is Boeing and Uzbekistan Airways. In May of 2021, eight pallets of medical equipment and relief supplies were transported from Seattle to Tashkent by a new 787-8 Dreamliner, the last of seven in a fleet being delivered to Uzbekistan Airways. The supplies were sent into a region where geographical constraints and world events have created substantial need. High rates of disease and maternal mortality are significant problems. After collecting the needed supplies from around the U.S., Project C.U.R.E. worked with the Uzbekistan embassy to arrange delivery. The total delivery was approximately six tons of material including hospital beds, mattresses and wheelchairs. Prior to shipment, an official ceremony celebrating the donation was attended by Uzbek diplomats and executives from Boeing.

Project C.U.R.E. relies on significant financial contributions in addition to the volunteer hours and equipment donations. Corporate donations represent just over half of the organization’s financial support, followed by 33% coming from individual donations and almost 6% coming from foundations. The organization achieves an impressive operational efficiency with a combined administrative and fundraising cost of 2%—meaning that 98 cents on the dollar goes directly to helping those in need.

The impact of work being done by Project C.U.R.E. cannot be captured simply by the numbers, but it’s critical that the organization continues to expand its network of supporters. If you are a potential supplier of medical equipment or supplies, a volunteer willing to help or someone willing to make a financial contribution, this organization is worth your investment. Contact information and a donation link are available on their website: projectcure.org.

Photos courtesy of Project C.U.R.E.


Alex Raymond is a freelance writer with interests in healthcare, technology and finance. He graduated from Yale and is an avid polo player.