SCARBOROUGH – A crew of volunteers and members of the Army National Guard spent part of Saturday at a Scarborough warehouse, loading a military truck with medical supplies that would otherwise have been taken to the dump.

Eager to get some 5,000 pounds loaded for transport, Sgt. Bill Lemke of the 716th Engineer Battalion asked, “What next?”

“Is the truck full yet?” asked Elizabeth McLellan, president of Partners for World Health, which collects the supplies.

“It’s certainly not empty, but it’s not full yet either,” Lemke said.

The 716th Engineering Battalion of Somersworth, N.H. will be taking the medical supplies with them later this month when they deploy to Haiti, where the materials can be put to good use.

McLellan, a nursing administrator at Maine Medical Center, founded Partners for World Health three years ago. Her group collects supplies that hospitals must dispose of due to strict government regulations, but which are still perfectly usable and desperately needed by people and organizations around the world. The nonprofit organization donated more than 100,000 pounds of supplies to over 50 recipients in 2010, she said.

When Lemke heard about McLellan’s efforts, he contacted her right away.

The battalion expects to work with three clinics, two churches and two schools while in Haiti. Even though it has been well over a year since a major earthquake devastated the country in Jan. 2010, there is still much to do, Lemke said.

“It’s improving, but it is still a huge mess as far as trying to rebuild,” he said.

Lemke, an EMT for the South Portland Fire Department, serves as a medic for his unit of 177 members. He has been trying for the past year to find medical supplies for the battalion to take to Haiti, but said he has been hampered by a lack of funds.

Materials loaded onto the truck included anything the unit members may need while in Haiti, as well as supplies they can leave behind to help with relief efforts, Lemke said. McLellan said the people in Haiti need everything from stretchers to dressing supplies, IV fluids, sterile syringes and linens.

While trying to get surplus supplies to people who need it, McLellan also hopes to educate area residents and foster community service. She works with area high schools and colleges to bring in students for volunteer hours, including the eight members of Portland High School’s Key Club who helped out Saturday.

Inside the 10,000-square-foot distribution center, Alexandra Kiladjian, 17, vigorously cleaned more than 100 plastic bins with disinfectant. A mound of medical supplies was piled higher than the door behind her.

“This is such a great cause,” she said. “It’s so smart to do this. They waste so much in the hospitals.”

The organization’s mission fits right in with her goals for the future. Kiladjian is headed to the University of Vermont this fall and intends to major in biology. She hopes to become a doctor and travel to places where people need help.

The organization currently collects material from 10 hospitals and 10 nursing homes around the state. McLellan said her goal is to have all the hospitals in Maine donating their surplus to the cause by the end of 2011.

In the meantime, she said, “we will take everything we can get.”

 

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

[email protected]