Trustee and Council Chair Mary Bersot Named Finalist for Community Leadership Award

Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee and Western Regional Council Chair, was recently named a top-three finalist in the “Volunteer of the Year” category of the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by The Invest in Others Charitable Foundation and InvestmentNews.  As part of this honor, she traveled to New York on September 14 to attend the group’s fifth annual awards ceremony, and had the opportunity to ring the NASDAQ bell the following morning.

Mary Bersot, Trustee and Council Member, representing MedShare in NYC's Times Square

Mary has been involved with MedShare since 2008, when we expanded to Northern California. Her leadership and fundraising efforts were instrumental in making this expansion successful during a recession, and she continues to build community awareness of our mission to responsibly recover and redistribute surplus medical supplies to those in need around the world.

We’re thrilled to share Mary’s account of this incredible honor and trip, in her own words:

“It isn’t often that an individual can take the spotlight and represent an organization such as MedShare in front of 600+ people, and then in Times Square. I recently had that privilege, however, when I was selected as a finalist for the 2011 Community Leadership Awards presented by Invest in Others and InvestmentNews in the Volunteer of the Year category. Clearly, it wasn’t me that was nominated. It was MedShare, and I was honored to represent this incredible organization.

First, I didn’t expect to be one of the three finalists and was surprised and honored to be included. On September 14th, my husband and I went to New York for the Invest in Others’ fifth annual awards ceremony to honor financial advisors who make a difference in their communities. We were also invited to ring the opening NASDAQ bell the following morning with the other finalists and sponsors. I have been in the investment business over 30 years and my dream has been to ring the bell and launch another trading session; I had no idea that I would feel such emotion and pride at being part of MedShare.

Upon entering the dining room the night of the awards ceremony, I was in awe when I saw the photo of the recipient country flags on the wall of MedShare’s Western Distribution Center on the main screen. This photo was chosen as part of the colorful backdrop as we met the other finalists, and I couldn’t help but recognize the sharp contrast between the lavish ceremony and the folks we serve both at home and abroad who couldn’t imagine such a fine event. Those flags helped me stay focused on why I was there.

I am just as happy making labels for the boxes of supplies bound for Haiti as I am taking a bow in front of 660 people. What those attending the reception didn’t see were the thousands of volunteers and staff behind the scenes that have made it possible to ship over 700 forty-foot containers full of much needed medical supplies to countries around the globe. One person can’t possibly take credit – it’s truly a collective effort. The contribution MedShare makes to global health is enormous, and as the story was told throughout the event more and more people expressed a genuine interest.

It was overwhelming to think that I was recognized by my peers at the event, and the next morning I found myself as excited as a kid entering Disneyland when I walked onto the NASDAQ set. I didn’t really care if the market was opening higher or lower – I was just excited to be there. We had our individual photos taken at the podium, which were then projected outside on the 3 story NASDAQ tower in Times Square. We rang the bell as a group and went outside, where we had our photos taken again. I had no idea that behind me would be MedShare’s logo projected two stories high for all of Times Square to see! I felt such pride and excitement. Now I know what it means when someone mentions their fifteen minutes of fame!

I am proud to be part of an industry that gives back and to have had the opportunity to share the MedShare story with the many remarkable people I met. My hope is that the recognition MedShare received those two days continues forward so many, many more lives can be saved.”

-Mary Bersot, MedShare Trustee and Western Regional Council Chair

This article is an excerpt from our October e-newsletter. For more – including a letter from CEO Meridith Rentz, our Clinton Global Initiative Commitment with icddr,b and Americares to strengthen health systems in Bangladesh, and how to get your family and friends involved – click here.

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MedShare Celebrates 700th Container Shipment

MedShare staff, volunteers and supporters celebrate the 700th container shipment

On Friday, September 2nd, MedShare celebrated a milestone achievement: we shipped our 700th container of humanitarian aid. This shipment paid tribute to A.B. Short and Bob Freeman’s founding vision, and celebrated the success of our past 13 years, during which we’ve shipped over $93 million worth of medical supplies and equipment to 88 developing countries and territories around the world. In the process, over 2 million cubic feet of space has been saved from landfills, as well as millions of lives around the world.

The container was sent from our Western Region Distribution and Volunteer Center in Northern California, and will benefit beleaguered hospitals in Misrata, Libya.

Turn-out at the ceremony was fitting for an event of this magnitude: Mr. Homdi Soliman, Operation Director of HOPE International Relief & Development Agency and sponsor, Dr. Heshaam Fallah, a Libyan-American physician with Kaiser Permanente and project coordinator, the Chief Medical Officer from Sutter Health, Kaiser Permanente representatives, a Council Member from the City of San Leandro, MedShare Trustees and Regional Council members, and many of our volunteers were in attendance. Mr. Soliman and Dr. Fallah spoke about the grave healthcare situation in Libya, and Mary Bersot, Trustee and Western Region Council Chair, shared her appreciation to our staff and volunteers.

“It has been an exceptional experience working with MedShare and all their staff throughout the Libyan conflict. With their extraordinary service and vision, we were able to help save the lives of thousands of men, women, and children,” said Homdi Soliman, Operation Director of HOPE.

The container was sponsored by HOPE International Relief & Development Agency (USA)based out of Columbus, Ohio. I-GO Aid Foundation, based in Malta, Libya, will coordinate delivery of the supplies and equipment to hospitals in Libya. The 1,000 boxes of medical supplies we sent were supplemented with biomedical equipment and durable medical goods, including hospital beds, gurneys, exam lights, exam tables, a ventilator for pediatric and adult patients, surgical packs, syringes, gloves and oxygen masks. Hospitals throughout Libya are dealing with a humanitarian catastrophe, as they are running short on critically needed medical supplies. This marked the fourth shipment we’ve sent to hospitals in Libyacollaborating with these partners.

We must give credit where credit is due: MedShare wouldn’t be celebrating this milestone achievement were it not for our wonderful community. For those that support MedShare through your gift of time, in-kind or financial donations or community advocacy, we thank you for all that you do, and ask that you continue helping us bridge the gap between surplus and need. With your partnership, there is no limit to what we can achieve, and we look forward to celebrating our 1,000th, 2,500th, and 5,000th container shipments with you!

To view more photos of this shipment ceremony, click here.

This is an excerpt from September’s e-newsletter. To read more – including a letter from CEO Meridith Rentz and the story of a medical mission team in South Georgia – click here.

The Ark Newspaper: Surplus Medical Supplies Make an Impact

Last week, MedShare was featured in The Ark Newspaper, a paper that serves the California towns Tiburon, Belvedere, and Strawberry. Two of our Western Regional Council members, Mary Bersot and Doug Grey, are from Tiburon, and they’re profiled in this article.

Take a moment to read the article:

Surplus Medical Supplies Make an Impact

By Ann Mizel

MedShare, a nonprofit organization ranked one of the most efficient charities in the United States by Charity Navigator, is making a huge difference in the lives of people around the world who have little access to quality healthcare, and two Tiburon residents, Mary Bersot and Dr. Douglas Grey, are deeply committed to the organization, serving on its national board.

Grey, who has retired from Kaiser Permanente as a vasular surgeon, remains at Kaiser as vice-chair, National Product Council, and is co-chair of the Technology Coordinating Group of Northern California as well as vice-chair of the Western Regional Council for MedShare. “MedShare is my second career,” he told The Ark.

Bersot, of Bersot Capital Management of Tiburon, is chair of MedShare’s Western Regional Council. “We collect usable medical surplus, except pharmaceuticals, from 29 California hospitals, including Marin General, and healthcare facilities that would otherwsie go into landfills adn incinerators and send the surplus to qualified healthcare facilites in the developing world,” Bersot explained.

The supplies sent abroad in 40-foot ocean containers of 1,000 boxes includes sutures, surgical instruments, IV sets, gloves, exam tables, stephescopes, wheelchair, sterilizers, infant incubators, blood pressure monitors and defibrillators. Qualified surplus medical supplies are also made available to free clinics in California and Georgia. (MedShare’s headquarters is in Decatur, Georgia, an Atlanta suburb.)

Grey’s focus is biomedical supplies – “anything that gets plugged in,” he said. “Either you reuse or throw out. MedShare’s biomedical engineer and technician restore and repair all donated equipment, so recipient hospitals are able to effectively operate the equipment they receive.”

MedShare, which has earned a Green Business certification, has become a passion for Grey, who sees “the magic of this,” when he speaks of MedShare, its efficient inventory system, fully screened recipients and contribution tot he environment.

Both Grey and Bersot emphasized the tremendous impact that can be made with even very few doanted supplies, and that for every $20,000 investment – the cost of sending one 12,000-pound container – $155,000 worth of desperated needed medical supplies and equipment will reach those in need. “We raised $20,000 in two months for a recent shipment to the Kingdom of Tongo,” said Bersot, who added that average tax-deductible donations are in the $50 to $100 range. “Our story is an easy story to tell.”

MedShare is able to keep overhead low because of its dedicated volunteers – 3,000 in the Bay Area – who work at MedShare’s distribution center in San Leandro, sorting and packaging donations by type, size and date of expiration. (Volunteers can sign up online.) Because of a huge outpouring of support from volunteers as well as donors right after the devastating earthquake in Haiti, MedShare was able to ship 27 containers to needy hospitals in that country.

Board members of MedShare make yearly trips abroad, so Bersot and Grey will be able to see firsthand some of their good work when they visit Kenya next year. “We see our work with MedShare as a way to reach out around the world, much like Peace Corps workers, but from afar,” said Bersot. Without being physically present, they are touching and saving lives every day.

To learn how you can help, visit MedShare’s website at www.medshare.org, contact Executive Director Chuck Haupt at chaupt@medshare.org, or call 510-567-7070.

Thanks to Mary, Doug, Ann Mizel, and Chuck Haupt for making this article come to fruition!