North Side-based international relief agency Brother's Brother Foundation expanding into Washington, D.C., area
By Bill Zlatos
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013, 9:46 p.m.
A North Side-based international relief agency is expanding into the District of Columbia area with the aim of helping more people.
“It means we can provide a greater volume and a greater variety of medical supplies to those who need them around the world,” Luke Hingson, president of Brother's Brother Foundation, said on Tuesday.
The foundation, ranked the 38th-largest charity in the country by Forbes magazine, intends to open a distribution center in Merrifield, Va., by the end of this month. It received the remaining assets of CrossLink International in Falls Church, Va., which provided medicines and supplies for about 745,000 people in 2010.
The founder of CrossLink, Dr. Barry Byer, has joined the board of Brother's Brother. Two CrossLink board members, Amy Hammer, president of a lobbying firm, and Cindy Kilgore, a retired health system executive, joined Brother's Brother as advisers.
“We are here because of the idea that the work we were doing meant so much to us,” Byer said. “We were all thrilled that this work might continue under the banner of the Brother's Brother Foundation.”
Byer, a family physician, founded CrossLink in 1993 after a mission trip to Moscow, where he saw unsanitary conditions. Doctors used thread instead of sutures for procedures and reused surgical gloves and gauze after washing and sterilizing them.
CrossLink became a nonprofit group in 1997, but the economic downturn a decade later made it difficult to raise money, Byer said, and it went out of business in September. Brother's Brother reached out to CrossLink upon hearing about its demise.
The Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area is more than four times as big as Pittsburgh's, and Hingson hopes to collect four to five times the supplies there. Brother's Brother distributed 2,700 tons of medical supplies, textbooks, food and more in 66 countries last year.
Hingson said the expansion enables Brother's Brother to reach more prospective donors — specifically, federal workers involved in the philanthropic Combined Federal Campaign.
The move puts Brother's Brother into contact with embassies that could help with customs for its shipments.
“We're hoping to start receiving items (there) before the month is over,” Hingson said.
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