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Local Hero Of The Week: Meet The Man Helping Others Volunteer While They Vacation

A stack of medical masks.
A worker at a Honeywell International Inc. factory producing N95 masks May 5, 2020, in Phoenix, Arizona.
(Brendan Smialowski
/
AFP via Getty Images)
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When you’re preparing for your summer vacation, you're probably packing sunscreen and beach towels.But what about surgical gloves and bandages?

Orange County native Carl Eaton founded the first U.S. chapter of the Canadian non-profit Not Just Tourists back in 2018. Not Just Tourists provides travelers and vacationers going to countries in need with suitcases full of medical supplies.

So far he’s sent $40,000 dollars in medical supplies to 41 countries around the world. Most of the supplies are sourced from a medical center in Orange County. All of them would have been thrown away because of U.S. regulations, but instead get funneled into luggage for the organization.

“So not only are we taking these supplies and sending them to developing countries that desperately need these supplies,” Eaton said ,”but we're also keeping these supplies out of our own landfill.”

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Before starting the organization, Eaton traveled with his family to several “developing” countries with his son to expose him to different environments.

“We [had] done a lot of traveling to developing countries when my son was younger and we kind of wanted to show him the world and show them that the world's a big place and a little bit different than the United States,” Eaton said.

He soon learned about the organization through an article. Spurred by curiosity, he contacted founder David Dallas to see if he could start the first U.S. Chapter. Dallas let Eaton onboard.

Ever since he's sent around 400 suitcases with supplies like bandages, surgical gloves, ivy flushes and suture kits.

And of course, a lot of masks.

While customs might seem tricky, the written inventory of supplies helps avoid suspicion.

“So what we do is we provide an inventory of exactly what's in the suitcase. What those supplies are. The second thing we do is we also provide a letter on our letterhead basically explaining that this is a humanitarian donation to Mexico, Mongolia, wherever you happen to be traveling.”

Eaton says his experience as an REI store manager lends to helping the international community.

“So, a part of my job, I was connecting with the community doing community grants. It did kind of [foster] a part of me that wanted to do this. I really enjoyed that part of the job.”

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If you want to be a volunteer while vacationing this summer, you can visit njt.net to participate with your local chapter.

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