CURE, or Compassionate Utilization of Resources, is an all-volunteer, Arkansas non-profit engaged in local area and regional benevolent work, collection and shipment of medical surplus to foreign hospitals, clinics and doctors and regional disaster relief.
The mission of CURE came after a tornado in 1996, which demolished homes and historic buildings across the River Valley, killing two in Fort Smith.
Volunteers who worked in the distribution center to assist with recovery wanted to help others affected by similar disasters.
CURE also offers crucial support for individuals and families without insurance or whose insurance will not cover medical equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers and hospital beds. Ron Hamilton, a member of CURE’s board of directors, said those without insurance that covers in-home medical supplies are able to get it loaned at no charge.
“Home health will gather things clients need that insurance won’t pay for,” he said. “I volunteered to help and the next thing I knew they asked me to be on the board.”
COVID-19 definitely impacted disaster relief efforts in 2021, but CURE coordinated utilization of donated funds from many congregations and individuals in conjunctions with Churches of Christ Disaster Response Team and Disaster Assistance Mission to aid victims of hurricane Ida, and tornadoes disasters in Kentucky.
Hamilton takes care of their contact list, such as the Department of Health Services for foster care and area universities, CURE has been able to donate used furniture to them through universities who renovate their residence halls.
Today, the nonprofit celebrates 26 years of service through their three warehouses across Fort Smith, and its work that has spread to almost 60 countries, including Ukraine, Malawi and Nigeria.
CURE annually receives, picks up and delivers approximately 30,000 pounds of donated food to the Community Services Clearinghouse, the Hope Campus and other efforts.
We purchased equipment for 33 school wellness centers for those throughout Arkansas, Darby Middle School, Hot Springs Lakeside school.
Recently, CURE donated 16,000 pounds of medical supplies to Ukraine with the help from Fort Smith Police Department. Cheri Taylor, special operations and crisis intervention unit officer, said she was so impressed by what the volunteers at CURE do.
“I was honored to be able to help,” she said. “Just to meet all the people and find out what they do and just be a part of it. It makes me want to help more if we can because it’s just an amazing project.”
Operation Ukraine, an organization in Montgomery Alabama, works with an international shipping company in New Jersey, to coordinate transportation of 40-foot containers of medical supplies. CURE keeps in contact with partners who are in the U.S. and know how to coordinate with foreign countries in need.
Kevin Vaught, a CURE volunteer, said these partnerships have been “extremely successful.”
Shipping these containers cost around $16-18,000 so getting a partner organization to approve this cost depends on who has the funds, Vaught said.
Containers are limited to 80,000 pounds of cargo total, it can not exceed this amount in accordance with the Department of Transportation. The team at CURE has to make sure the containers are balanced for the semi truck to have a successful trip to the shipment center.
The team has to do all this in two hours per container, if it takes longer, the organization paying for the container will be charged more.
John Mundy, a CURE volunteer, said they try to fill every space possible to get the donor of the container’s money’s worth.
“Sometimes there’s a little delay in loading, getting the pallets on there, because we’re hand stacking things on the inside,” he said. “But for (Ukraine’s) container, that 16,000 pounds, we loaded in one hour and 45 minutes.”
Vaught recalled how difficult it is to organize these giant containers.
“The tougher thing is when, you know, the (Ukraine container) in some sense was quote an ‘easier’ container,” he said. “When you’re putting on hospital beds and other pieces of equipment, it becomes a little bit, it becomes a little more complicated putting that puzzle together for filling your space and trying to keep your weight evenly distributed.”
Thankfully, the CURE warehouse has a scale to weigh the pallets and pieces of equipment before loading.
“We’ve been doing this for over 25 years, and that experience helps us each time we do another one,” Vaught said. “Even though each one’s different that experience helps each time we do it.”
A lot of tedious work takes place before the containers even arrive and loading can start. Volunteers have to sort through every donation they receive to check for an expiration date, down to the last band-aid box. Even after a successful international shipment, many risks are still present.
CURE has seen their supplies destroyed by bombings in Ukraine, and they have no way of knowing what made it to help people and what didn’t. But their mission fueled by the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 in the Bible, in which Jesus reminds a young man that everyone is their neighbor and should be shown mercy, keeps them motivated.
“It’s just a realization of how many people need assistance and help,” Hamilton said. “There’s so many people who do need it and it makes you feel good to do it. Our motto is “if not us, who? If not now, when?”