Medical supplies

José M. Ralls, executive director of Southwest Medical Aid, shows the type of medical supplies his organization collects and distributes.

It happens all the time. Someone gets ill and their family stocks up on medical supplies and then their mom, dad, grandma gets better or passes away.

Suddenly, they've got a lot of wound care, incontinence or diabetic supplies they have no idea what to do with. Plus, they're stuck with a walker, commode and bath chair.

John David Arnold and José M. Ralls want to help.

Arnold is the founder of Portable Practical Educational Preparation Inc., also known as PPEP, and PPEP Microbusiness Housing Development Corporation. Ralls, a retired U.S. Department of Homeland Security official, is executive director of Southwest Medical Aid.

Both non-profit groups work to serve the underprivileged in the U.S. and beyond and merged in May. They are now called PMHDC Southwest Medical Aid and they want the general public and non-profits to know they exist. Specifically, they want to form relationships with non-profit organizations throughout Southern Arizona to better serve those in need, Ralls said. 

If a non-profit has a client that needs a walker or incontinence product, they can call PSMA, or if a non-profit has a client that needs to donate a hospital bed or commode, they can also call PSMA. Once the call is made, volunteers will work with the non-profit to make sure the client's needs are met – without costing them a dime, he said.

Prior to merging, Southwest Medical Aid was already receiving donations from hospitals, churches, fraternal organizations and clinics and will continue to do so, Ralls said.

With the merger, they want to form more partnerships in the hopes of filling their new 6,000-square-foot warehouse on East 46th Street in Tucson with more medical equipment.

"There are a lot of groups constantly assisting people in Sahuarita, Green Valley and that entire area and they don't know we exist," Ralls said.

It just made sense for SMA to merge with PPEP, Ralls said. PPEP has been offering a variety services to beleaguered people in Southern Arizona, Mexico, Africa and elsewhere since 1967. SMA has been helping some of the same people out with medical supplies since 2005.

"Our bonding or merging together has allowed us to, over the last few months, be able to expand our operation and include more people who would otherwise go without, the marginalized folks in our communities," Ralls said.

Since May, PSMA has probably donated 40,000 to 50,000 pounds of equipment, he said. 

Items not used in the United States will be sent to medical clinics in far away places like Africa, Guatemala, Peru, Honduras, Belize and the Philippines, Ralls said. Many times, those items would've just ended up in a landfill, he said.

On the front of the non-profit's new brochure is a legless man from Agua Prieta, Mexico, sitting in a wheelchair. Arnold said PMSA not only gave him dignity and pride, it gave him a life. No longer does he have to rely on others to get to the bathroom, bed or anywhere else.

"One little thing like this can transform a life," Arnold said.

Ralls said those making donations gain something, too.

"We've had people tear up," knowing their loved ones' equipment was helping someone else, he said.

Kim Smith | 520-547-9740

Assistant Editor Kim Smith moved to Arizona from Michigan when she was 16. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism in 1989. She has worked at seven newspapers of varying size in Arizona, Texas and Nevada.

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