An Unsung Hero

Garland Crawford has been a box manufacturer for 40 years. He builds wooden vaults and containers for indoor storage. His work has given him expert skills in operating electric tools and forklifts, construction and woodworking, and in three-dimensional thinking. He has a better work ethic and more endurance than most people we know, and he does his work with calm and friendliness. All these qualities are very valuable to us, because they are all essential to the many, varied steps of our shipping process.

Each trip that Canvasback organizes requires a lot of supplies. They come to us from doctors and donors, and we have to get them to the islands. Garland’s involvement starts from the beginning. The supplies come to our warehouse by delivery service most of the time, but every so often he picks them up.

Between the surgery packs, instruments, equipment, and medications, we amass enough to fill a number of crates – sometimes enough to fill a 40-foot container. We can’t ship these items loose, they need to be stored for transportation. So each trip Garland uses his vault-building skills to build wooden crates from plywood and two-by-fours – a lot of them. They are packed Tetris-like with IV solution, drapes, sutures, needles, syringes, and more. Once packed, Garland completes them, screwing on the last two sides of the crate, then stacks them with a forklift, if needed, to make room for more.

On the day of shipping, Garland moves the crates into a truck or container, a difficult task when you have only a few inches of clearance to move within. It takes clever maneuvering and several hours to stack and situate the crates in the right places. Sometimes his job stops there. Other times he drives the supplies himself to San Leandro to be shipped.

Garland has to wake up at four AM every morning to go to work. By the time he gets home at four PM, he is tired. Despite having worked a physically demanding job all day, he will come in after work to do these tasks, sometimes staying late into the night to do so.

Last summer we had five trips shipping supplies out to Majuro, Palau, and Yap on the same day. It was the largest shipment we have ever had to pull together. Usually Garland has a comfortable amount of time to complete all the shipping steps, but this five-trip shipment required five times as much work, within a one-trip timeline. Garland came in after work for two weeks before the shipping day to make it happen.

He rushed to build, fill, and stack crates, but a few days before the shipping date there was still too much to do within his usual hours. To make sure we could ship on time, Garland stayed until midnight for several days making crates then packing and sealing them – averaging three hours of sleep for a number of nights.

We managed to just make the deadline, warehouse full to the brim with more than 40 crates, thanks to his sacrifice. What was more, the morning the container arrived, he was at the warehouse waiting for it, having taken work off to move each crate into its corresponding truck and container. While the rest of us were stressed, Garland was steady and pulled us through. We could not have done that or any shipment without him, and we owe him a great deal of gratitude.

We rely on a lot of people like Garland, who might not put in full-time hours, but who do essential work. Those who come in to do small office tasks, the nurses and doctors who brave the depths of our warehouse to organize supplies, all the medical professionals who give their vacation time to come and work long days caring for those in Micronesia. We need them all.

We need you too. Please donate to Canvasback so we can all work together to continue to bring essential medical care to Micronesia.