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Direct Relief Completes 155,000-Square-Foot Distribution Hub for Humanitarian Medicine

Donation from Virgil Elings Caps $40 Million Campaign for New Warehouse

Direct Relief's 155,000-square-foot headquarters and humanitarian distribution center for charitable medicine. (Photo by Donnie Hedden for Direct Relief)
Direct Relief's 155,000-square-foot headquarters and humanitarian distribution center for charitable medicine. (Photo by Donnie Hedden for Direct Relief)

Direct Relief today announced it received a $5.1 million donation from Virgil Elings to complete funding for its new headquarters facility. The $40 million facility, which was dedicated today, includes both Direct Relief’s headquarters offices and the largest distribution hub for humanitarian medical aid in the United States.

As a gesture of gratitude, Direct Relief has named the office building within the headquarters in honor of Dr. Elings, a nanotechnology pioneer, former University of California Santa Barbara physics professor, and philanthropist.

“Direct Relief is deeply grateful to Dr. Elings for his generosity in making this building a reality,” said Thomas Tighe, president and chief executive officer of Direct Relief. “This contribution is the capstone gift to those so generously made by hundreds of other individuals, foundations, and companies for which Direct Relief will be forever thankful.”

Direct Relief today also acknowledged the crucial role FedEx and others have played both in supporting Direct Relief’s ongoing operations and in helping fund its new global distribution center. FedEx donated $3 million to help fund the building’s construction.

“FedEx is privileged to be able to support Direct Relief in this mission,” said David J. Bronczek, president and chief operating officer of FedEx Corp. “We believe the new distribution center is a critical asset for humanitarian response which will enable the secure delivery of medications and other health essentials. We are honored to work alongside Direct Relief and stand ready to help provide communities around the world access to the resources they need, especially in times of disaster.”

Direct Relief runs the largest charitable medicines program in the United States and is among the world’s largest providers of humanitarian medical aid. The organization was the first and remains the sole U.S. nonprofit organization to obtain the highest accreditation for the storage and distribution of prescription medications and to be licensed to distribute such products in all U.S. states and territories.

The new 155,000-square-foot headquarters and distribution center, nearly four times the size of Direct Relief’s previous facility, was built to meet both heightened federal requirements related to secure storage and distribution of prescription medications as well as the increased demand for humanitarian assistance stemming from emergencies and areas of chronic need.

Direct Relief provided medical aid to recipients in 100 countries last year. From its new facility — during the week of January 21, 2019, alone — Direct Relief delivered aid shipments to Afghanistan, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Ukraine and 37 U.S. states.

Direct Relief's new headquarters features a Tesla micro-grid system with 999 solar panels that allows the organization to remain online through power outages. (Photo by Tony Morain/Direct Relief)
Direct Relief’s new headquarters features a Tesla micro-grid system with 999 solar panels that allows the organization to remain online through power outages. (Photo by Tony Morain/Direct Relief)

Among other benefits, the new facility allows Direct Relief to keep on hand medical aid needed to respond to natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes and wildfires, and is designed as an energy island, able to generate electrical power to run its operations for months in the event of a protracted grid shutdown.

Direct Relief announced its $40 million fundraising campaign in September 2016, initially securing $25 million in private contributions and pledges from individuals, foundations, and businesses including Abbott and BD, with lead gifts from FedEx, the Zegar Family Foundation, and Dorothy Largay and Wayne Rosing. Members of Direct Relief’s Board of Directors also were instrumental in the completion of the building, providing more than $12.5 million in funds and donated services. These board members include Dorothy Largay and Tom Cusack, who co-chaired the capital campaign, and Mark Linehan, president of Wynmark Co., who managed the development of Direct Relief’s headquarters project on a pro bono basis.

“Building this facility was the largest project in Direct Relief’s 70-year history, so we are pleased that the campaign exceeded its goal, was concluded early, and that the project itself was completed on time and on budget,” said Tighe.

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