By Kathie Daily
“It’s the people who make this happen—donors, volunteers, missionaries and others, among them those who deliver the medical supplies. We see miracles every day and I work side by side with saints,” explains director Jan Izlar, describing her ministry with Southwest Medical Aid.
In 2004 Izlar, a lay Salvatorian, founded Southwest Medical Aid (SMA) in Tucson, Arizona. The Salvatorians include the Society of the Divine Savior (priests and brothers), Sisters of the Divine Savior, and lay Salvatorians (single and married lay persons).
Through her work with several charities, Izlar noticed the growing need for an organization that could collect surplus medical supplies, and package and distribute them to medical clinics in Tucson and abroad. Southwest Medical Aid is dedicated to improving the health and lives of children and families by providing them with medicine, medical equipment, educational materials and personal care products. Currently, SMA is a leading non-profit distributor of medical supplies in the southwest.
With husband, Jim, and a group of volunteers, Izlar works four days a week in a 3,300-square- foot warehouse. Last year, Sister Elizabeth Christensen, S.D.S., retired and joined the volunteer group as an administrative assistant. She had ministered for decades in the Midwest and wanted a meaningful retirement. SMA was exactly what she was looking for, and Sister Elizabeth has become an asset with her considerable computer, fundraising and organizational skills.
Christensen says, “We see miracles all the time. One day a request comes in, and the next day that item is donated. Each day we see how generous people are, from those who make donations of their time to those who donate medicine and equipment. We have already made two shipments to Haiti, one by air, another by ship, while continuing to address the needs from other areas.”
Izlar notes that many times missionaries will send trucks to pick up needed medical supplies or volunteers will arrange to deliver the items. Donations are given to the Tucson clinics, as well as those in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Philippines, Africa, and Ethiopia. “Now we are planning a mission trip to Peru with about 30 of our volunteers. Many are nurses who will hold health clinics in various villages. Each person pays their own transportation costs,” she says.
“The people we serve are extremely poor. They have nothing and are so grateful and excited when our supplies arrive. SMA is a ministry of hope, where we experience the daily goodness of so many people trying to improve the health and lives of children and families.”