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Thank You Elizabeth McClellan

The Boothbay Harbor Rotary Club welcomed Elizabeth McClellan, founder and executive director of Partners for World Health  in Portland, to our meeting last week.  Fifteen years ago, Elizabeth was working as an RN at Maine Med, and decided to do something about the perfectly good equipment and consumables that were being thrown out per US law, ending up in our landfills as medical waste, when they could be repurposed and used in developing countries.

Elizabeth last visited our club in 2016, and since then, Partners for World Health has grown into the largest such non-profit in New England.  It has a number of warehouses throughout northern New England, and a series of trucks to pick up throw-aways from a number of healthcare institutions. 

Partners for World Health repurposes the equipment and consumables it collects both in the developing world and locally.  On a personal level, this reporter notes that over the past decade or so she has discussed various reasonably random countries and their healthcare systems with Elizabeth, and is invariably astounded to learn that Elizabeth not only knows about healthcare in the country named, but has frequently visited there, knows people in the country, and has an intimate knowledge of their healthcare needs.

Partners for World Health sends medical equipment in 40 foot containers.  Cost includes shipping expenses, customs declaration, and a small cost to cover PWH’s warehousing and administrative costs.  That said, everything - from organizing in the warehouse to packing the container - is accomplished by volunteers. Elizabeth urged us to come and learn more. Typical cost to fill/send one container is around 40,000, and Elizabeth estimates that each container can include $250,000-$350,000 worth of goods.  “We pack the smaller consumables around the larger pieces of equipment,” she explained.  “I don’t like to ship air.”

Elizabeth also talked about a current opportunity for the club:  Marty Helman returned from Uganda last month after a Rotary trip that included the inauguration of a brand-new 40 bed hospital built by the Rotary Club of Kampala. The building is complete; an MOU has been signed with the  Anglican Church of Uganda to provide medical professionals (the Anglican Church  holds responsibility for much of Uganda’s healthcare system); all that is missing is equipment, beds and consumables.  Right now, healthcare is being delivered via mobile clinics, but the Rotarians involved hope that equipment can be purchased for the hospital.  Marty naturally thought of Partners for World Health. Stay tuned for more information about a opportunity, which may very well mean that we would take part in a Global Grant to help finance the project.

The Rotary Clubhouse has taken on a decidedly Christmissy spirit, with thanks to Irene Fowle and her elves.  On Thursday, December 14, we will celebrate with a Holiday party.  Bring an appetizer or dessert to share; Chef Amy will provide more substantial food.  Rotarians are invited to dress in the spirit - this may mean entering the highly anticipated “Ugly Holiday Sweater” contest, or Rotarians may prefer to go the “Holiday Bling” or even “weird headgear route.  Whatever, just come dressed for the season.  We will also have a gift exchange/Boston swap; bring your gift worth NO MORE THAN $15, wrapped, to go under the tree.  Family and friends are absolutely invited, just make sure that they also bring a gift, wear something (in)appropriate, et cetera.  You get the idea.


The Big Rotary Barn is open two more Saturdays; December 16 will be the last day of the season before it closes for winter.  Who knows? You might find that gift exchange item in the Barn (let’s face it: $15 goes a long way in the Barn); or you might find it in your front closet - something you’ve been meaning to re-gift.  Judy DeGraw is in charge of sniffing out all gifts shaped like wine bottles.  Just so you know.

In other news, the Club has set up a $5000 matching grant for gifts to the Home Heating Oil fund.  Give online - and ask your friends to do the same thing.  It’s all for the good of our neighbors in the Region.

Our speaker this Thursday will be Paul Linet, President of 3i Home, a organization in Topsham, Maine working to address the need for more accessible, affordable and supportive housing so adults with physical limitations can live independently and how this project can also provide ideas and support for anyone needing physical assistance in their homes.

Doug Harley and President Tory were sporting lovely BBH Rotary Club baseball caps at the meeting.  Caps and polo shirts are available to all members from Harbor Embroidery  downtown; stop by, select your color, and order for yourself or a friend. Friendly efficient self-service - and much faster than waiting for Marty Helman to get the job done.

Interested in learning more about Rotary and joining in on the fun?  Ask any Rotarian or stop by the Clubhouse (almost) any Thursday evening.  The fun gets underway by 6:00 pm, dinner and a program happen, and we are outta there by 8:00 pm latest.  It’s the place to be!