Enter the workshop at Chosen International Medical Assistance and you’ll hear grinding metal and the pounding of a ball-peen hammer.
Seven or eight men, mostly retired, gather a few days each week at the workshop in Millcreek Township, near Erie International Airport southwest of downtown Erie, to rebuild and refurbish used medical equipment that is then used in mission trips around the globe.
“These look like junk when they come in here,” Bob Corey said as he removed the door on a 60-inch sterilizer. Corey, 83, is a Steris retiree.
Nearby, volunteer Ralph Edes, 62, cleans pipe fittings. “I like to work with my hands,” said Edes, who is a GE Transportation retiree.
Tool-and-die maker Bruce Platz, 58, oversees the work of refurbishing the sterilizers, some of which might have been built in Erie.
“We’ve supplied surgical tables, sterilizers and lights to places such as Haiti and Sierra Leone, 110 countries in all,” Platz said. He’s planning a mission trip to Mexico with Edes that will be his seventh or eighth time helping out in remote areas of the world. The men plan to drill and build a water well for a community there.
“We acquire the sterilizers when Steris customers trade in their old ones,” said Jeff Mazza, community outreach facilitator at Chosen International Medical Assistance. “We can’t distribute in the U.S. or markets that compete with Steris, so that’s how the mission trips evolved.”
“Typically clients pay a reduced fee for the sterilizers,” Mazza added. “Usually we send a staff member and volunteer to install the equipment and provide training.”
Chosen International Medical Assistance is a faith-based nonprofit that was founded in 1969 in Millcreek.
One area that has grown steadily is the home health-care program, which provides items such as wheelchairs, walkers, shower chairs and other items at no cost. On average, more than 150 pieces of medical equipment are provided each month, said Mazza. The amount of equipment refurbished for the home health-care program more than doubled since 2015, he said.
“Unfortunately we turn away about 30 people each month because we just don’t have the supply,” Mazza said.
Chosen also partners with Ramps of Hope, building and installing wheelchair ramps in the community, and We Need Your Shoes, which takes used shoes and distributes them to micro-entrepreneurs in developing nations.
Back in the shop, Edes was asked how he felt about his first mission trip out of the country.
“I can help somebody out,” said Edes. “It gives an Erie guy a chance to go somewhere and let people know what we’re all about.”