When one door closes, another opens, so the old saying goes. In my case, the door that opened didn't just let in sunshine, but actually the world – more specifically World Care.
Early one Monday in February, I found it necessary to rearrange my schedule and absentmindedly turned on the television to hear a local newscaster announcing a benefit luncheon for Haitian relief that day at the University of Arizona. I decided to attend and it couldn't have been a more fortuitous decision.
There I met Oro Valley resident Lisa Hopper, 48, founder and president of World Care, a nonprofit I had heard of, but knew very little about. The proceeds from the luncheon were to be directed to World Care and Lisa was there to make a brief speech on the urgent need for Haitian relief efforts. I learned Lisa is no ordinary CEO, but a visionary whose organization offers help to those in need on a continuum from local to international. She said it all started with a recurring dream.
"I was working at George Washington University Hospital in D.C. running their radiology department," she said. "I kept having the same dream. I was in a warm, rural desert setting with a clipboard in my hand. Next to me was a plane with the words 'World Care' printed on it and there were boxes all around."
Changes started to take place in Lisa's life when GWU Hospital was being sold and she had to find a new job. She landed a position at University Medical Center in Tucson in August, l994. Her first baby step toward fulfilling that recurring dream was to collect unwanted school supplies in her garage after work and redistribute them to teachers for kids in need.
Today, World Care has a board of directors, staff, more than 600 volunteers and occupies the former Keen Elementary School, a 40,000-square-foot facility. World Care, which uses only 3 percent of funds received for administrative purposes, offers help starting here in Tucson, with supplies and dollars given to l70 local agencies. Programs such as Tools for Schools, the Computer Refurbishing program and Prison to Work Success program continue to make a difference in many lives. World Care help also has been given to victims of disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, the 9-11 attacks and wildfires in California.
International needs also are a priority with help going to more than 70 countries over the past 13 years. Most recently, World Care partnered with KOLD Channel l3 and Walgreen's to send over a million dollars in supplies and $100,000 in cash to Haiti to help victims of the January l2 earthquake.
Lisa and a few members of her team spent a week in Haiti in February to get a first-hand look at the devastation and relief efforts.
"I had traveled to Haiti in 2003," Lisa explained. "It was horrific then; now, it's almost indescribable. Take the three million people, place them in a small box with few resources and dirty water. Now shake the box up and that is Haiti today."
She said she witnessed thousands of crushed buildings, the smell of decaying bodies, people walking in a daze and children alone on the streets trying to find family.
"We had to make sure the supplies and dollars reached their destination, and most importantly the victims," Lisa said.
In addition to her World Care work, Lisa is finishing a book titled, "In the Wake of a Dream," to be published this month, which details the struggles and triumphs of creating a humanitarian organization with worldwide impact. She also teaches a class — The Spirit of Social Entrepreneurism — at the Honors College of the University of Arizona.
Even with such a tightly-packed schedule, Lisa finds time for a few hobbies.
"I love to paint, cook and play golf," she said.
Lisa Hopper is the embodiment of the spirit of one — one person with a vision of a better world who, with the help of others, turns it into reality.
World Care, which receives no government funding, can be reached at (520) 514-1588,
www.worldcare.org or PO Box 64001, Tucson, AZ 85728.
Barbara Russek is a French teacher and freelance writer. She welcomes comments at Babette2@comcast.net.