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Laurie M. and Jeff C., Global Links Volunteers
Laurie M. and Jeff C., Global Links Volunteers

Life Changing Is ... the Power of Volunteering

Laurie M. and Jeff C., Global Links Volunteers

“It's really amazing what they do here. We like to be a part of it.”

At Global Links’ 58,000-square-foot facility, volunteers diligently work to inspect, sort, and pack surplus medical supplies.

It is a vital component of the Pittsburgh-based nonprofit's operations. In 2023, Global Links processed 263 tons of surplus.

“We rely on volunteers to sort and pack all these medical supplies,” says Stacy Bodow, outreach and engagement manager, Global Links. “We do about 15,000 to 17,000 volunteer hours a year to make this happen.”

UPMC proudly supports Global Links in its mission to improve community health locally and internationally. Since 1989, Global Links has rescued and shared surplus medical supplies to support various health programs.

The surplus supplies go to communities in need in the United States and internationally.

Stacy says volunteers process about 95% of the 260-plus tons of surplus that passes through the facility. That can include sorting syringes, gauze, oxygen masks, gloves, and other surgical equipment.

“And we do literally touch each piece,” Stacy says. “So, making sure it’s (not outdated), sorting it by size, (and) identifying exactly what it is.

“We’re never going to send a box of mixed stuff. It’s always sorted, packed, and inventoried so somebody on the other end knows exactly what they’re getting.”

In addition to smaller medical supplies, Global Links also accepts and distributes larger items. That can include beds, mattresses, crutches, walkers, ventilators, and more. The facility even has a “Wheelchair Wrangler Workshop,” where six volunteers repair wheelchairs.

Laurie M. has volunteered at Global Links since October 2013. She usually spends two hours every Wednesday morning sorting supplies. She even recruited her husband to volunteer after he retired.

“When I heard about Global Links, I thought, ‘This sounds like a good, convenient place to go and volunteer,’" Laurie says. "And it's been a lot of fun."

Ironically, leftover medical supplies first brought Laurie to Global Links. She underwent major surgery in 2012 and recovered faster than expected.

“I had a lot of medical supplies left over at the end,” Laurie says.  “I didn't know what to do with them, and I threw them away. The next year, when I heard about Global Links, I thought, ‘I have to pay back the medical supplies I did not share with them.’”

Like Laurie, Jeff C. also volunteers at Global Links every Wednesday. Jeff is an aide at an organization that assists people with special needs. A coworker introduced him to Global Links.

“One of the other aides came upon Global Links and said, ‘Hey, this would be a great volunteer opportunity,’" Jeff says. "We checked it out, and we've been here ever since."

Jeff is joined each week by Billy, one of his clients with special needs.

“He thinks about this like his job and takes it very seriously, and he does a great job,” Jeff says. “This is a great way for him to interact with people and feel like he's doing something important.”

For Jeff and many volunteers, helping others and giving back is a key driving point.

“It's really amazing what they do here,” Jeff says. “We like to be a part of it.”

Global Links also partners with organizations like UPMC and the Western Pennsylvania Diaper Bank for drive-up diaper distributions. Families and caregivers of young children receive a one-month supply of diapers per household.

The nonprofit also organizes personal care kits filled with shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and more. The kits are then distributed to local households.

Global Links offers tours of their Green Tree facility on the second Tuesday of every month. Those interested can learn more about the nonprofit’s mission and volunteer opportunities.

“It’s a great place to volunteer (and) spend a couple of hours helping out,” Stacy says. "You can help in our community and internationally in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

At UPMC, Life Changing Medicine means volunteering to help make a difference and give back to our communities.

Learn more about tours, donations, volunteer opportunities, and how you can help support Global Links.

Pittsburgh (KDKA): Pittsburgh-area nonprofit organization collects supplies to distribute to those in need.

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Community Commitment

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