Denise Sears, President and CEO of Supplies Over Seas

Denise Sears believes that caring for others is the highest form of compassion.

In the work she does as President and CEO of Supplies Over Seas (SOS), she witnesses miraculous, life-saving events all over the world.

From its massive warehouse in Louisville, SOS accepts excess supplies from hospitals in Kentucky, southern Indiana, Cincinnati and Nashville.

It sorts, packages and ships those items—that would otherwise end up in a landfill–to places in need across the globe. Last year SOS sent 18 large containers to various countries, including Ethiopia, Haiti, Guatemala and Nigeria. Each container contains at least $150,000 worth of supplies.

“Mayor Fischer is very proud of our designation as a city of compassion,” Sears said. “We give the city an opportunity to send that compassion around the globe to areas that don’t have anybody extending a compassionate hand to them.”

She tells a story about a nine-year-old boy in Ghana she visited. He had eye surgery that restored his sight. Afterward he was able to walk to her, extend his hand, and express his gratitude.

“After surgery, the bandages came off, and the smile that came across his face was life-changing,” she said.

SOS is a Global Health Organization that is also referred to as a Medical Surplus Recovery Organization. There are just a handful of similar organizations in the United States.

During the past several years, the amount of supplies collected and distributed by SOS has taken a sharp increase. Just six years ago, it handled 88 tons of supplies. That number has risen in successive years to 118, 133, 153, 163 and in 2017, 233 tons.

The compassionate acts don’t just benefit those in faraway places. Some supplies are given to local medical training schools, including the University of Louisville, Bellarmine, Sullivan and the Galen College of Nursing. Also, individuals going on mission trips collect items at SOS to take with them.

Inside the SOS warehouse on Arlington Avenue, an overwhelming number of items line the walls, from medical testing equipment to furniture to wheelchairs. Sears points to a baby-warming device that is extremely valuable and rare in some countries. All are clearly labeled, organized and ready to ship.

Sears said local schools benefit from not having to buy these supplies, allowing students to experience situations using actual products from hospitals.

“We are investing in the future of the healthcare work force,” she said. “We’re certainly caring for our local community by keeping our environment cleaner and healthier, and by making sure the people who care for us are getting the best education possible.”

SOS donates to other local non-profits as well. Sears emphasizes that anything that can benefit organizations locally is donated to the local community. Still, the real work of SOS is helping groups who have no other access to medical supplies.

“I saw children dying because of a lack of supplies,” she said. “You want to talk about compassion, we can send what we don’t need here and save lives there. There’s no higher definition of compassion.”

Nominations open for 2019 Commitment to Compassion Awards

The next Commitment to Compassion awards luncheon is scheduled for Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at the Muhammad Ali Center. Do you know a compassionate soul who deserves this honor? Fill out the form below and send in your nomination. The deadline for award nominations is Friday, December 21.

The mission of the Partnership for a Compassionate Louisville is to champion and nurture the growth of compassion.We ask: ‘What does compassion want for Louisville?’


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