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Banking on KC – Kim Carroll of Heart to Heart International

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Kelly Scanlon:

Welcome to Banking on KC. I'm your host, Kelly Scanlon. Our guest today is Kim Carroll, the president and CEO of Heart to Heart International. Welcome, Kim.

Kim Carroll:

Thanks so much for having me, Kelly.

Kelly Scanlon:

We're all used to... When a disaster strikes, you know, we're used to hearing about the response of lots of international organizations like the Red Cross and others that provide aid. But, one organizations that always at the ready, not just during the disasters, but always at the ready with medical supplies, with doctors and other humanitarian aid is Heart to Heart International and that's located right here in the Kansas City metro in Lenexa, Kansas. Tell us about that broader mission of Heart to Heart.

Kim Carroll:

We're seen by many people, especially in the local Kansas City community, as a disaster response organization. That's what the media tends to report on. But, we actually have a much broader mission. We seek to improve health care access in the United States and around the world by ensuring that quality care is provided equitably and with a real focus on the under-resourced communities, but also in disaster situations.

Kim Carroll:

So, there are a lot of reasons why people and communities don't have access to quality health care. Sometimes, it is after a disaster. But, there are also other barriers. They could be economic barriers, lack of health insurance, lack of transportation or even communication. And, those are the people that it's Heart to Heart's mission to reach.

Kelly Scanlon:

Let's talk about your origins. Back in 1992, it started with a airlift in Moscow and at that time, it was the largest humanitarian airlift that was ever attempted. So, tell us about those beginnings and how the success of that campaign led to Heart to Heart to becoming a formal organization and then expanding into all these areas that you just mentioned.

Kim Carroll:

It's amazing. 1992. That was 30 years ago. This is Heart to Heart International's 30th anniversary and we'll be celebrating in the fall. Well, actually, we'll be celebrating all year. But, that very first airlift happened after a group of local community leaders went on a humanitarian visit to Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and saw that there was tremendous need for medicines and medical supplies. They were able to secure donations and actually another local company was at the time was a big part of that. That was Marion Merrell Dow. They had the donations and then the challenge was how to actually secure the transportation because this was the largest private airlift and then Senator Bob Dole actually played a role in that and secured a C Five A Galaxy from the Air Force.

Kim Carroll:

So, since then, we've expanded a great deal. There were a number of other airlifts that occurred. But, back when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, there was a real shift in the organization or an addition to its mission for disaster response. We've also maintained that humanitarian aid distribution, but we've grown it. It's not just an airlift type or event driven activity. We receive and distribute donated medicines and medical supplies from the manufacturers and then distribute them to under-resourced communities and clinics all over the world.

Kim Carroll:

Since our beginnings, we've distributed over $2.4 billion in medical aid and actually in 2021, we distributed four million in aid just in the Kansas and Missouri area. So, that aid could be... The last two years, it's been a lot of PPE, but it's also essential medicines for diabetes, hypertension, infections and then basic medical supplies, syringes, needles, bandages, et cetera. And so, as a licensed wholesaler, we operate as a distributor year-round.

Kelly Scanlon:

You also mentioned that as part of that improving access to health care, that you... You mentioned your clinics and you also have labs. So, where do those operate and how are they making an impact and providing that access you talked about?

Kim Carroll:

Heart to Heart is a B to B, business to business provider versus a business to consumer. So, with the exception of disaster response where our medical teams are providing direct patient care, our mission is really to build up the existing health care infrastructure to help them be more productive and meet the needs of their community in a sustainable fashion.

Kim Carroll:

And so, with our point of care laboratory work, we do something that's very unique. We take clinics. Typically, they are going to be members of the NAFC, National Association of Free Clinics. And, through corporate partner now for many years, we've been installing what is referred to as point of care laboratory equipment in those clinics and this is equipment that enables the staff to do all of the testing in the single visit that the patient is there. So, unlike many of us, where we might go to the doctor, they'll send us to the lab, we give them blood samples and then we go on to our online portal and our doctor sends us a message on what the results were... That's not possible for many people, that second visit or getting to having transportation to get to a lab.

Kim Carroll:

So, what we want to do is take these clinics and make them much more efficient and that's really valuable in these communities. So, we've been installing those laboratories. We've installed over 26 now with a lead partner as proof of concept. That's BDE. They are a medical supply company, medicines and medical supply company on the East Coast. There are 1,400 clinics that are members of NAFC and it's our goal to take every qualified clinic in the U.S. that needs this capacity and ensure that they have it and are able to sustain it.

Kim Carroll:

Let me just give you a real specific example for listeners to understand how meaningful this can be. One of the clinics where we'd installed this equipment was seeing a woman who had... She had no insurance, no transportation, no understanding of the medical system, and was brought in by friends. She was weak. She was dizzy. She had blurry vision and had been losing weight for months. So, they, of course, saw her that day, drew blood and diagnosed her with severely uncontrolled diabetes. Her treatment was started immediately and within a month, she was back at work full time. That's what an impact can have. It's not just improving her health, but you're improving the community by... Healthy people are going to be better able to work and contribute to that community, care for their own kids. That's really where we see the impact.

Kelly Scanlon:

Now, let's stick with that impact for just a bit. You mentioned earlier, you know, that you're celebrating 30 years since that initial Moscow airlift. So, that's 30 years of disaster relief, of providing vaccines and services. Can you give us an idea of the impact, the lives you've changed? I mean, you just gave us that great example. But, the volunteer hours, the dollars that have been spent on this cause.

Kim Carroll:

So, we've distributed, as I mentioned, $2.4 billion of basic generic pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. We've distributed to 135 plus countries all over the world. Some of the early data on volunteer hours is a little harder for us to track and recreate. We believe it's just at 1.1 million hours and volunteers are at the heart of everything that we do. We have volunteers that deploy with our disaster response team, but also much of our laboratory work that I referenced, those are volunteer laboratorians who help us complete that work. We have volunteers in our warehouse and doing administrative work, helping us run our day to day operations.

Kim Carroll:

And, this is actually... It's a way for them. Many of our volunteers are trying to stay active and stay involved in their community and they make us better. They will tell us that their lives have been improved by being able to help others.

Kelly Scanlon:

Oh, and that's so often the case. You hear that over and over again. When you talk about deploying, who usually deploys? You know, when you go around the world? Do doctors, medical professionals themselves actually take part in these?

Kim Carroll:

They do. So, we have a roster. It's part of our disaster response team, or DRT. We continuously add to that group and train regularly. We have regular training events and continued education. So, within the volunteer pool, you have physicians, nurses, EMTs, pharmacists sometimes and logistics experts. And so, when there's a disaster, the first thing we do is send an advance team. They will deploy very quickly and then that is where we'll determine do we deploy a full team and if so, where do we plug in?

Kim Carroll:

So, a typical team will be one to two physicians, two to four nurses, and one or two logistics experts. And again, it will vary depending on what the actual needs are. When we deploy internationally, we deploy under the umbrella and at the request of the World Health Organization. Locally or domestically, we deploy based upon what the local authorities are requesting. But, we'll typically put an advance team on the ground very quickly so we can understand what's happening, understand where we're needed.

Kelly Scanlon:

You know, a lot of times, people, especially these days, people who are interested in supporting a nonprofit start asking more questions about how the organization is spending their donations. And, I was doing a little research and I found out that Consumer Digest has among the top charities, America's top charities list, they have listed Heart to Heart International as number two in the humanitarian category for most efficient charity. How have you earned that reputation?

Kim Carroll:

We take every donation and we understand it's a gift. We have incredibly generous donors, some of which have given to us every year since we were founded. That's a gift. So, we maintain about 40 full time employees and we keep that very lean. All of the work we do, we'll scale up based on the project or program. We may scale up with contractors or we may scale up with volunteers or contractors or temporary staff. It's a real privilege, but it's a real responsibility to take the donor dollars.

Kim Carroll:

And, we have to be a good employer. We have to take care of our people. But, we don't have to spend excessively. We really look at efficiency and in fact we look for every way we can to be more efficient in our operations up to and including raising very specific capital funds to improve the operational efficiency of our headquarters so that donor dollars are not going to go to landscaping [inaudible 00:11:34].

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. And, you mentioned that volunteers are a huge part of your efforts. Do you have to be specialized in some area in order to be a volunteer? Or, is there room for the general public to participate? And, if so, how do they get involved?

Kim Carroll:

There's room for everyone and any skill set. We have volunteers that come out to assemble hygiene kits for us, which is terrific. That's one of the first things we send to sudden onset disasters. We have warehouse volunteers. The majority of our volunteers do not respond to disasters. They may cover our front desk. They may help us with administrative work. Some, they offer us specific expertise, legal advice. There's lots of ways to serve. The best way is for someone to go to the Heart to Heart website and reach out to us there, even leave a message about what their areas of interest could be.

Kim Carroll:

You know, this past two years in Kansas City, we've had a huge response with the local community volunteering and helping. We actually vetted 200 volunteers for Johnson County, not to support Heart to Heart, but to help them, Johnson County, with COVID vaccinations. Early in the pandemic, we actually started with CDC foundation funding doing COVID testing in essential workers in marginalized communities. So, these were people who are not working from home via Zoom. They were out making sure we all had groceries and the essentials that we needed and we had a tremendous response from volunteers and also scaled up some contract staff to help us with that.

Kim Carroll:

And then, the same from a vaccination standpoint. We had so many pharmacists and nurses and physicians who helped us. We held mass vax events. We're still vaccinating in the community in a partnership actually with University of Kansas Health Care [inaudible 00:13:35], Urban League of Greater Kansas City, KC Digital and Community Health Council of Wyandotte. But, we've had volunteers that help us with that and so there are lot... Just lots of different ways to help. Everyone has a gift. Everyone has something to bring.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yes. And so, it's hearttoheart.org and the to is spelled out T-O. It's not the number two. Hearttoheart.org. I'm glad you brought up your work here in the community because in addition to the work you've done with COVID, on a regular basis, you also are a great neighbor, a great partner in the community. You open up your headquarters to other nonprofits. Talk to us about those efforts.

Kim Carroll:

We were very fortunate. Three years ago, we acquired a building in Lenexa off of Renner Road and it was absolutely exactly what we needed in terms of our warehouse space. The total facility is 150,000 square feet. 62,000 feet of that is warehouse. With 40 to 50 people, we don't fill out a lot of the rest of the building and so one year after we were in, COVID hit and we really wanted to be able to help others make a difference and because we had large unused space, we had offered it to... For example, the Community Blood Center was able to do blood drives more physically distanced here and keep people safer. Salvation Army has used our space for their volunteers to assemble the holiday meal boxes that they distribute every year at Christmas as well as their coat drives.

Kim Carroll:

So, we really are fortunate and are open to other nonprofits who perhaps are not as fortunate with this kind of space or who have one off needs to be able to leverage this incredible asset that we have.

Kelly Scanlon:

Now, Kim, you have been with Heart to Heart since 2016. So, for coming on six years now. What's been the most satisfying part of your work?

Kim Carroll:

I actually was working in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and there was a small community up in the mountains, up in the central part of the island, that had no access to health care. Their roads were terrible. They continually washed out and collapsed. Fairly elderly community. They were very isolated. And, there was a community leader who really had vision. He just needed resources and help bringing the other groups together. And, what they actually did was there was an old coffee roasting barn in their community and they converted it to a clinic and it was converted to a clinic with the labor of the community. They were totally vested in this. And, multiple partners from all elements of the humanitarian world got involved, including Heart to Heart International.

Kim Carroll:

And, today that clinic is still operating. It has a working pharmacy, a optometry capacity. They provide good primary care and one of the programs that Heart to Heart actually supported was a community health worker network where they actually mapped out their entire community. They know where everyone lives, especially who are their elderly and what their medications are, medication needs. And, when they've been impacted by lack of access to care, they're able to go directly to those individuals and take care of those individuals and... And, we funded that program for a couple years but with a mind to sustainability. They were able, actually, to continue that.

Kelly Scanlon:

Yeah. What a network that is.

Kim Carroll:

Yeah. And, it was... It was all of us coming together because no one organization does this alone. We... That's what we're really good at. We're really good at partnerships. You know, I am really proud of what Heart to Heart has done in Kansas City since the pandemic began. But, there was one... This is more about a single individual. So, we had been assemble and distribute hygiene kits to people affected by sudden onset disaster or people in sustained resource poor conditions. And so, we had been working down with Hope Faith in Kansas City, Missouri and doing some work down there and distributing a lot of hygiene kits.

Kim Carroll:

And, there was a gentleman there who connected with us who had been experiencing homelessness and was housing insecure. But, he actually came back later and he raised some funds and he actually hosted a small event here and assembled kits because he wanted to help others and he wanted to give back. And, that is just... It just is such a reflection of what community is all about and I think people who are here in Kansas City say yes, that's us. But, I hope that people in cities outside of this area are saying, "Yep, that would happen here, too."

Kim Carroll:

I think that's really what this is all about and it's why I love doing this job so much. It's just so uplifting because we can all make a difference. Everybody can make a difference and if they don't know how, they can reach out and connect with us and we'll see.

Kelly Scanlon:

Well, Kim, thank you so much for all you're doing. You and Heart to Heart are certainly making a difference here in Kansas City and across the world. Thank you so much for joining us today to tell us about those efforts and just for doing what you're doing.

Kim Carroll:

Oh, thanks so much for having us.

Joe Close:

This is Joe Close, president of Country Club Bank. Thank you to Kim Carroll for being our guest on this episode of Banking on KC. Heart to Heart International has been getting at the heart of improving health care access for those in underserved communities and disaster sites in the U.S. and around the world for 30 years. Since its inception in 1992, it has delivered more than $2 billion in aid to residents of 131 countries. Heart to Heart International envisions a world in which every person has access to a healthy life and every community has the resources to make that happen sustainably. Certainly, it's a bold vision, but with the network of volunteers, donors and community partners Heart to Heart International has assembled, many of them here in the Kansas City area where the organization is located, it can become a reality.

Joe Close:

We're banking on you, Kansas City. Country Club Bank. Member FDIC.

 

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