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Pay it Forward: Medline Makes a Difference Day

Medical Dealer Magazine | Pay it Forward | Medline Makes a Difference DayBy Matthew N. Skoufalos

For the past three years, Eric Gerstein has participated in the Medline Makes a Difference Day event, and has taken home a valuable experience each time. Gerstein is vice president of tax at Medline, headquartered in Mundelein, Illinois.
Over the past nine years, company employees have volunteered more than 27,000 hours to local community projects in Northern Illinois, to help support efforts at local YMCAs, community service centers, a center for victims of sexual abuse, and organizations that address homelessness, to name just a few.
Aside from continuing his volunteering streak, Gerstein said the annual efforts provide him opportunities to see the impact of hands-on efforts in his community, both as an individual and as a coworker.
“It’s an awesome opportunity for the company to give back,” Gerstein said. “It’s also a great opportunity to meet other Medline employees that you often wouldn’t cross paths with otherwise, whether because we’re in different divisions and groups or different buildings and locations. It’s getting us out of our immediate team and into the broader Medline team.”
The annual event invites Medline employees to recruit extra hands from among their friends and families as well. For Gerstein, that meant a chance to bring his twin daughters on the trip for an up-close education on giving back. As they were packing school supplies for needy kids at Medline Makes a Difference Day 2015, Gerstein watched his girls internalize the feeling of recognition as they filled backpacks for those in need.
“The first time, I was able to tell my kids what I did [at Medline Makes a Difference Day]. The second and third times, I was able to show them and let them participate and learn how powerful it is,” Gerstein said. “[Now they know] there are some kids in the world whose schools don’t have the things they need to have a good day in kindergarten.”
The aura of participation is contagious as well, he recalled. As volunteers in one corner of the Lake County Fairgrounds finished packing meals, they would erupt in a cheer every time they finished a box. The cascade of energy washed over the other volunteers, Gerstein said, motivating them to push harder, too. When all was said and done, they had packed 25,000 meals.
“Our employees, friends and family helped provide much needed items to nearly a dozen local organizations. All these small projects led toward something bigger,” he said.
Gerstein remembers the 2014 Medline Makes a Difference Day at Diamond Lake Elementary School in Mundelein, a school that he said “was aging and needed a little facelift; a little pick-me-up.” Medline volunteers repainted the cafeteria, painted murals, built flower pots and benches, and painted a map of the United States on the playground blacktop. The excitement and joy in the faces of the children who returned to see their school revitalized, cemented the experience for him.
“I don’t think I’m the only one having fun at these community events,” Gerstein said. “You’ve got people who are bringing their families and friends to participate too; you’ve got people that are joining and making it bigger than just the employees here.”
Gerstein said that Chicago Cares, the organization that coordinates the volunteer projects, teased the volunteers that “when it’s a Medline project, they need to plan a little more activity into the day.”
“We always crush the goals,” he said. “We enjoy giving back to the community, and when Medline commits itself to doing something, we take it to the next level.”
In a Medline press release, Chicago Cares CEO Jenné Myers spoke about how the impact of Medline Makes a Difference Day “will be felt for months and even years to come.”
“We couldn’t be happier to partner with Medline, which serves as a rich example for how companies can meaningfully give back and connect with their communities,” Myers said.
Her remarks were echoed by Donna Lake, communications and philanthropy director for the Northern Illinois Food Bank, the recipient of those 25,000 meals packed by Medline volunteers. With one in seven people in the area relying on her food bank for nourishment, Lake said of the event, the “charismatic community spirit and kindness is a great example of how one company can make a tremendous difference in the lives of thousands of people in need.”
After the Oklahoma City tornadoes of 2013, the company’s onsite warehouse team in Oklahoma City collected and distributed health care supplies to local facilities, many of them in their personal vehicles, said Medline Sustainability Program Manager Susan Gibbons.
“Others took orders and ensured every item on each customer’s needs list was packaged onto pallets, expertly wrapped to sustain the relentless rains and marked ‘Oklahoma Strong,’ ” Gibbons said in a statement.
“Pulling together, they made multiple trips back and forth late into the night, sometimes trekking three hours each way through the mud and debris when it would have normally taken just 30 minutes,” she explained.
Gibbons also pointed out how Medline employees don’t only respond to need in their own backyards. The company has donated gloves for health care workers battling the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, and distributed surgical hand rub to health care workers in Kathmandu responding to the earthquake in Nepal.
The company’s perspective on corporate philanthropy also dovetails neatly with its market missions as a provider of health care equipment, Gibbons said.
“Medline believes that being a good corporate citizen is not only the right thing to do, it is our responsibility as a leading manufacturer and distributor of medical supplies and clinical solutions across the continuum of care,” Gibbons said.
“Whether it is at our corporate office or one of our distribution centers or manufacturing facilities, Medline employees are deeply committed in strengthening the communities where we work and live,” she said.