Date: March 9, 1989
Location: Saint Joseph, MI
By: Dennis Cogswell
Newspaper: The Herald-Palladium
PAW PAW – The efforts of two Van Buren County men helped send two truckloads of medical supplies to a primitive hospital in the tiny, impoverished Central American nation of Belize.
Dr. Roger Beyer, a Paw Paw obstetrician and gynecologist, and Duane Packer, president of Packer Foods in Lawton, recently received plaques from the Three Rivers Lions Club for collecting and donating the supplies.
The supplies included sutures, wheelchairs, bandages, anesthetics, artificial limbs, and other items, and were flown to Belize in November in two C-130 cargo planes by a U.S. Air Force Reserve unit from Selfridge Field near Mount Clemens.
Packer was on hand for a ceremony, attended by the U.S. ambassador and the Belize’s Minister of Health, at which the supplies were presented. He said local officials seemed to be very grateful.
He said the hospital in Belize’s capital is generally well maintained, but was built in the late 1800’s and is primitive by modern standards.
“They just don’t have too much to work with.” he commented.
Packer said he got some of the supplies in a trade for canned goods processed by his company, and originally planned to sell them.
He said he was approached by a friend, Richard Ward of Three Rivers, who told him about the needs of the hospital in Belize, a small, poor country which was formerly known as British Honduras.
“I had been in Central America before, so I had a good perspective of what the problems were.” Packer said.
Packer said Ward is affiliated with Wings of Hope, a pilots’ group that provides medical relief to Third World countries. He said Ward helped organize the project in conjunction with the Three Rivers Lions Club.
In the meantime, Beyer said he had been gathering medical supplies for donation to a clinic in the Philippines through the personal physician of former President Ferdinand Marcos.
When Marcos was deposed, the donation fell through, and Beyer and Packer decided to pool their supplies for use in Belize.
In addition to their donation, Three Rivers Area Hospital also donated several pieces of equipment, including operating tables, cribs and sterilizers. Several other companies donated warehouse space, packing materials and transportation of the supplies to Selfridge.
Beyer said he is now collecting other medical supplies to donate to the hospital. He said anyone who has equipment, such as a used pair of crutches, is welcome to contact him.