Customer Portrait: Monica Ponsky and the dream that built MedWish

January 30, 2012

The world is full of inspiring, hard working people with great ideas. At FreshBooks we are lucky enough to meet them every day when they call in with a question about their account or billing.  We’ve noticed that the more time folks have to spend outside of running a business, the more time they have to invest in awesome projects.

Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with FreshBooks customer Monica Ponsky. We struck up a conversation about the fantastic not-for-profit organization called MedWish International that Monica helped create with her husband, Dr. Lee Ponsky. I was so blown away by the work they’re doing I had to share their story. We asked the founders to tell us more about the organization and while this is a story about the non-profit world, they offered advice that can apply to anyone trying to make a great idea get traction in a world with lots of competition.

How did MedWish get started?

In 1993, we founded MedWish International with the goal to save lives and conserve our environment. In partnership with hospitals, medical clinics, and private practices throughout Northeast Ohio, MedWish takes excess surplus medical supplies and sends them overseas to promote health and save lives in less developed countries. Monica also plans the annual benefit, Band Aid Bash, which raises over $230,000 each year to support our mission.

What are the essential ingredients for making a great idea come to life?

Two things: dedication and passion. MedWish is an idea that started just like most entrepreneurial endeavors (i.e.: in a parent’s garage) and has been successful enough to have now shipped supplies to 97 countries and sent 2.7 million pounds of surplus medical supplies. The organization has been around for 19 years, but really took off in 2005 when we hired the right Executive Director, who had a vision of building bigger partnerships and finding significant funders. We also spread the word about MedWish with everyone we know and meet, without fear or hesitation, because the cause speaks for itself.

What is the key to your success?

MedWish is the connector between America’s surplus medical supplies and the dire need for said supplies overseas.  For that reasons, we make sure to have excellent relationships with all our stakeholders.  Our network includes volunteers and an active board that pushes MedWish within the business and philanthropic communities. We have a generous group of donors, and we are always working to attract new funders interested in humanitarian relief, environmental conservation, and special needs. We have dedicated international partners, who arrange for the shipments and pay all the associated fees. And we have over 50 amazing local hospitals and clinics that call us whenever they have unneeded supplies. It’s important to keep all of these groups happy!

How do you maintain your purpose and passion?

We constantly receive pictures, stories, and even videos from our overseas recipients. Seeing these supplies in action, and learning about the lives that are saved, keep our passion and commitment strong.  We recently received a letter came in last week from a woman in Uganda whose life was saved by medical supplies. I can’t think of anything more powerful!

What have you learned from the people you are helping?

We’ve learned the incredible value of medical equipment and supplies, no longer deemed useful by the American healthcare industry, in saving lives around the world. We’ve learned about the ingenuity and spontaneity of overseas healthcare providers, as they struggle with a complete absence of supplies. And we’ve learned that we should never take anything for granted: that simple pair of latex exam gloves, that 20cent syringe, and that two-dollar pair of medical scissors…they are worth their weight in gold to those who need them.

This sounds great!  How can someone get involved?

We welcome volunteers and donors, so just visit our website for all kinds of opportunities.  If you have things like old crutches or wheelchairs etc., you can mail them to the MedWish warehouse for distribution overseas. We are always looking for worthy projects overseas to supply so suggestions are welcome, and volunteers come from around the US to work in our Cleveland warehouse.  And, of course, you can also help us by donation: for every $1 contributed, we can send $16 worth of supplies overseas.

about the author

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