Tag Archives: volunteer

Spend a Saturday with MedWish


The MedWish warehouse, where medical supplies for over 90 countries are collected

After pushing through any long week at work, I need a really good reason to wake up before 6 am on a Saturday.

But when local nonprofit MedWish International put out a call to bloggers to meet for a volunteer day, I had my reason.

I had heard a little bit about MedWish last Spring, but this past Saturday gave a hands-on glimpse into the empowering work MedWish is doing in their warehouse on Cleveland’s far east side.

MedWish Founder Dr. Lee Ponsky

Almost 20 years ago, Dr. Lee Ponsky was a surgical assistant in Nigeria with the World Health Organization.

Lacking even the most common supplies, doctors and nurses had to be their own MacGyvers using things like fishing line instead of suture. And when there wasn’t an alternative for certain medical supplies, Lee witnessed firsthand that patients often suffered and died for it.

Saddened but also riled by some of these experiences overseas, he returned to Cleveland determined to help resolve this need and started collecting unused medical supplies from local hospitals and clinics.

MedWish’s “hot items” – hard to keep in stock because they’re always needed

Over the years, this grew into the MedWish we know today, which in 2011 alone recovered more than 500,000 pounds of usable medical surplus.

By saving these items from landfills, Lee and his team puts them in the hands of people in need across the globe. From small crates and suitcases to 40′ cargo containers, MedWish delivers to over 90 countries.

MedWish works individually with the overseas recipients to ensure they receive the items they actually need – not things that would end up in unopened boxes.

And although they receive an impressive amount of medical supplies from regional hospitals and clinics, they will only deliver supplies that are in excellent and unexpired condition.

MedWish ships large hospital items like these beds to new clinics throughout the world

Because of this, MedWish relies on a corp of volunteers and their Building Careers vocational program to help their small but dedicated staff sort and package.

This is where our group came in on Saturday morning when I was joined by Wearing Mascara, sosAssociates and Cooker Girl.

After meeting Lee, we toured the warehouse and experienced first-hand how they sort and organize everything for delivery.

Our group’s task on Saturday was to go through surplus epidural kits to remove gauze, catheters, and a couple of fluids for injection. Although it was a fast and even fun activity, it was sobering to be reminded that each small piece from these surgical kits would ultimately have a huge impact on a patient overseas. An impact I’m only beginning to fathom.

Sorted epidural surgical kits

After Saturday’s blogger sort, I would encourage everyone to get involved with MedWish in some way:

  • Give your time:  MedWish can always use help sorting and packing the medical supplies they receive.Throughout the year they host Saturday sorts like the one I attended. There are also volunteer opportunities during weekdays and for groups.Become a volunteer: medwish.org/give/volunteer-info



  • Give funds: Every $1 donation to MedWish sends $16 of medical supplies overseas – with 92 cents of each dollar solely dedicated to recovering, repurposing and redistributing supplies. Donations can be made anytime online and by mail.You can also buy tickets to Huddle 2012 whose proceeds go to MedWish. The football-themed event on Nov. 17 provides a low-cost tailgate alternative to their Band Aid Bash.  Tickets are $25 which includes dinner, an auction and a visit from former Cleveland Browns player Dick Ambrose at the Wickliffe Italian-American club.Buy your Huddle tickets: medwish.org/huddle2012


  • Spread the word: You can actually do one thing right now for MedWish – help spread the word about their mission.Connect with MedWish on your social network of choice (@medwish on Twitter or facebook.com/MedWishInternational).And if you’re an Instagram, show MedWish what philanthropy in Cleveland means to you. Upload a photo, tag @medwishintl and use the hashtag #DoGoodCLE with your post by November 12 for a chance to win two tickets to Huddle 2012.

    Learn more: medwish.org/blog/what-does-philanthropy-mean-to-you

Happy bloggers (thanks to Wearing Mascara for the photo)

Thank you to Reanna, Traci, Lee and everyone I met during Saturday’s Sort. It was an even better reason than I thought to get out of bed so early!

Upcoming Events for CLE's Young Professionals

When Greatist.com ranked Cleveland as the #7 best city for 20-Somethings, it cited the fact that we’re one of the best places for new college grads, filled with job openings (especially in manufacturing and engineering), and Draft Magazine’s Beertown, U.S.A.

Another reason I’d add to this list: all of the opportunities available for Cleveland Young Professionals to socialize, network and give back to the community.

While the city’s YP groups usually have events throughout the year, it seems like the next couple of weeks are particularly filled with them.   Here are just a few to mark on your calendar:

Cleveland Foodbank YP KickOff – Sept. 27

As I mentioned in last week’s post about Hunger Action Month, the Cleveland Foodbank is launching a new program for Young Professionals. And next Thursday, Sept. 27, they’re hosting a happy hour at Grovewood Tavern to unveil the name of the group and plans for future events.

From 6-8PM, a senior Foodbank staff member will be onsite to answer questions about poverty and hunger in Cleveland and discuss the Foodbank’s programs and volunteer opportunities.

And for every two canned goods you bring, you’ll receive a drink ticket (maximum of two drink tickets).

You can RSVP and learn more at clevelandfoodbankyp.eventbrite.com.

I’ve found my experiences volunteering for the Cleveland Foodbank to be extremely rewarding and the fact that everyone deserves to have food on their table is very important to me.  As a member of this new YP group, you’d be able to get involved, help set the direction for the organization and really further the impact the Foodbank has on our region.

As a side note: Earlier on the same night, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and Engage Cleveland will be co-hosting a Pop-Up Party at the Colonial Marketplace.  The historic space is taking a new lease on Downtown Cleveland Retail and the Marketplace’s developer will be available for attendees who’d like to share their ideas on the stores and businesses they want to see in the space.

Since the Downtown Pop-Up starts at 5pm, you can stop by, share your ideas, and head to the Cleveland Foodbank happy hour to wrap up your night.

PlayhouseSquare OSU Party – Sept. 29

Are you ready for some football?  On Saturday, Sept. 29, Partners – PlayhouseSquare’s YP group – is hosting their annual OSU party during the Buckeyes-Michigan State game.

Doors open at 3pm at the Blind Pig with kickoff at 3:30pm.  Admission is free but you can also take advantage of a special deal on food and drink during the game. For $25 in advance/$30 at the door, enjoy 4 hours of unlimited pizza, pasta, wings, beer, wine and well drinks.

Even if you aren’t a college football fan, this event is a great opportunity to help raise money for PlayhouseSquare’s Bus Fund.  Proceeds from the food and drink packages, as well as raffles and the silent auction will provide much-needed funding to local schools who are unable to afford transportation to PlayhouseSquare shows.

Learn more here and make your reservation by calling 216-640-8416 or emailing franzm@playhousesquare.org.

Other upcoming PlayhouseSquare Partners events include:

Why Stay YP Conference – Oct. 6

The Why Stay Conference is an all-day conference that’s free and open to any Cleveland young professional. Through a partnership with BET, TV20, Cleveland State University, SOUP, and the Hip Hop Caucus, the event will provide discussions about programs, industries, issues and activities for young professionals in the area.

Described as a “Do-ference,” Why Stay attendees will also take an active role in formulating a plan for Cleveland young professionals alongside local leaders like County Executive Ed Fitzgerald.

Why Stay will be separated into three tracks – Work, Play, and Stay. Some of the sessions include “Education and Bridging the Gap,” “Cleveland’s Food Scene” and “Marketing Cleveland to the World.”

After a day of brainstorming, the event wraps up with a Town Hall and Wine Tasting.

Learn more about this inaugural conference at whystaycle.com and RSVP at whystay2012.eventbrite.com.


Whether the arts, volunteering, or community development are your interests, there’s never been a better time for Cleveland’s young professionals to get out there, get engaged and be enriched. Another bonus is that many of these opportunities are free to attend (I love free – free is great!).

However, these are just a few options; if you’re interested in seeing what Cleveland’s other YP organizations are up to, Engage Cleveland has an excellent resource page at engagecleveland.com/yps.

If you’d like to share an upcoming event for young professionals that I didn’t mention, leave it in the comments!

Disclosure: I am a board member of PlayhouseSquare Partners and on the YP Council of the Cleveland Foodbank. From time to time, I will post on upcoming events hosted by these organizations; however, these are events I truly think are interesting beyond my involvement in any organization.