Medical Supply Drive gives opportunity to help destitute

  • By SUZANNE MOORE News Editor Oct 13, 2016 


PLATTSBURGH — A tragic accident in Nicaragua underscores the value of an event coming up this Saturday for North Country Mission of Hope.

The Medical Supply Drive is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the parking lot at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake. 

“Walkers, crutches, IV poles …” Mission of Hope Medical Committee Chair Bonnie Black listed some much-needed items. “Medications that expire after October 2017.

“We have to make sure something donated today will be legal to bring into the country when the container (carrying it) gets there.”



Medical supplies that Americans take for granted — that they tend to put in the garage or some other storage space once used — are considered luxuries for poor Nicaraguans, among them a young woman named Alesca Torrez Cabrera.

Last March, she was walking home from Mass with her two sisters, Idania and Erika, when they were struck by a speeding truck.

Her sisters died, and Alesca was left with severe injuries.

She did not undergo a leg amputation, as was first indicated, Mission of Hope Executive Director Sister Debbie Blow said this week.

“But it is severely maimed, as is her arm,” she said.



During the July mission in Nicaragua, Blow met with Alesca, who at that time was staying with a relative near Managua, as she needed daily treatment at a hospital there.

Mission of Hope had provided Alesca with a wheelchair that had been donated to the organization for just such a purpose.

But Blow learned then that the girl would not be able to return home to her father because their tiny house sits in a ravine, inaccessible to a wheelchair.

Alesca, as had her sisters, has an education sponsor through Mission of Hope, so those associated with the group were especially saddened by the tragedy.

Donations poured in to pay for the two funerals and for Alesca’s surgeries and other treatment.

And recently, those funds helped pay for two ramps: one allowing Alesca to reach her home in her wheelchair and the other to get in and out of the house.

The entrance to the building was also revamped to allow access, Blow said.



Blow was struck by the grief written plain on the faces of Alesca and her father.

The wreck that killed Idania and Erika came a year to the day after their mother had died of an illness.

“He couldn’t talk about it without crying,” the Dominican Sister of Hope said.

But she felt the mission group and the donors who contributed to Alesca’s care at least brought a little hope to the father and daughter.

“She was teary; she was very quiet,” Blow said in recounting her meeting with Alesca.

“She was very grateful — she said to thank the donors to Mission of Hope and her sponsor.”



Blow expressed gratitude for a recent major donation of medical equipment from University of Vermont Health Network, Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh — items such as hospital beds, Hoyer patient lifts, disposable hospital gowns and various medical supplies that will improve the care offered in poor Nicaraguan hospitals and clinics.

This Saturday’s Medical Supply Drive gives an opportunity for the public to make a difference, too.

Adirondack Health reached out to Mission of Hope about putting on the event, Black said.

“It’s all their energies and ideas,” she said.

Mission of Hope volunteers will staff the collection, with vehicles ferrying donated items from Saranac Lake to the group’s warehouse, MOH-Town, in Schuyer Falls throughout the day.

Donations will also go to supply the 33 first-responders who serve the poor barrios around Chiquilistagua where Mission of Hope does its work.

Trained by volunteer Bill Calmbacher of Schroon Lake and the mission’s medical team, those locals have maintained their CPR and other certifications through the Nicaraguan Red Cross, Black said.

“They are getting very good at providing immediate care in non-life-threatening situations,” she said.

There had been no first-response for medical crises at all in that area before Mission of Hope organized it, Blow said.



Donors are encouraged to give new medications, as well, including cough syrups for children “because there are so many respiratory issues,” Black said.

In fact, any medications for those under age 12 would be welcome.

“Diabetic testing supplies are really, really needed,” Black added. “Universal testing strips are really precious down there.”

Speaking to the North Country at large, Blow encouraged people to re-purpose medical items with Mission of Hope.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity,” she said, both to the public, who through the Supply Drive can help others, and for the mission.

“We’re very glad Adirondack Health reached out to us.”


Email Suzanne Moore:

Twitter: @editorSuzanne


Reach Bonnie Black at for more information about the Medical Supply Drive.

To volunteer to help load the equipment donated by CVPH on Wednesday, Oct. 26, contact Jimmy Dumont at 651-6009 or email him at

Donations to defray the $9,000 cost to send that shipment to Nicaragua and also to help cover the remaining $900 for Alesca’s ramps may be mailed to: North County Mission of Hope, P.O. Box 2522, Plattsburgh NY 12901. Note the intended use of the donation on the check’s memo line.