Providing Much Needed Help. Anytime. Anywhere. To Anyone in Need.

By Giving List Staff   |   November 17, 2023
Direct Relief Emergency Response Team members help Montecito residents prepare sandbags ahead of major storms and flooding in January 2023.

In November 2022, a tornado tore through Idabel, Oklahoma, demolishing dozens of buildings, including the Kiamichi Family Medical Center. It’s a small, rural community and thankfully no one was killed. The news stopped covering the disaster almost immediately. But in Idabel, the aftermath of the tornado left the 9,000 patients the medical center had been serving in the low-income county without a much needed facility. One that took a 12-year fundraising campaign to build. 

Even before FEMA assessed the scope of damage, the nonprofit organization Direct Relief had issued an emergency operating grant of $50,000 to Kiamichi Medical Center to set up a temporary site for patients to continue to be treated. 

Marisa Barnes surveys damage from Hurricane Ian on Thursday, October 6, 2022 in Ft. Myers, Florida. (Zack Wittman for Direct Relief)

“We understand that the tornado didn’t make national news, but the storm completely altered the course of everyone’s life who lives there,” explains Tony Morain, the nonprofit’s VP of Communications, underscoring the nonprofit’s tagline of “Anytime. Anywhere. Anyone in Need.”

The grant is barely a blip in Direct Relief’s total humanitarian efforts, which last year included rapid responses to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria (the organization immediately provided $3 million in financial support plus 440 tons of medical aid) and the Maui wildfires (huge deliveries of emergency medical supplies and hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating grants to community groups). That was at the same time that its ongoing support of Ukraine’s civilians in the war-torn country continued on a daily basis, topping $1 billion in medicine and medical supplies by August – Direct Relief’s largest and most sustained humanitarian aid response in its 75-year history.

Direct Relief is uniquely capable of such simultaneous efforts by adopting technologies, tools, and practices from commercial businesses to operate more efficiently and effectively. Its state-of-the-art medical and pharmaceutical warehouse and wholesale global distribution facility was designed to increase their capacity to respond to increasingly larger needs in more places at the same time. 

“Direct Relief is performing a very government-like function, but in a very business-like manner, using only private resources applied through everything we’ve learned about operating a humanitarian supply chain over 75 years,” says Dean Axelrod, VP of Partnerships in Philanthropy.  

Even more importantly, the organization has been cultivating relationships around the globe for decades, not only during times of crisis, but with ongoing medical and humanitarian support. When a disaster does strike, there’s a pre-existing connection. 

“We were able to be in Ukraine on day one because of those very close relationships and deep understanding of how the facilities there operate in their communities, just as we have elsewhere,” Axelrod says. “We know the logistical requirements, understand how best to transport material aid, and are able to identify really impactful opportunities for funding with organizations that can make a little bit of money go a really long way and have major impacts right away.”


Direct Relief

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(805) 879-4932Vice President, Partnerships and Philanthropy: Dean Axelrod


Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization, active in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, with a mission to improve the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies – without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay.

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Direct Relief’s generous support of victims of disasters and emergencies, let alone their support of first responders, is unmatched by any other organization. With the establishment of their Search and Rescue fund, we are now able to maintain and enhance our capabilities as a nonprofit, all-volunteer professional first responder team, ensuring the safety and well-being of the communities we live in, and serve for years to come.
Nelson Trichler
Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue

Providing Disaster and Humanitarian Relief Around the Globe

Direct Relief’s capacity and capabilities – including providing more than $5.5 million in local support, $77 million in California since 2020 – dwarfs most other such humanitarian aid organizations. But there are limits largely defined by its financial capacity.  

“Direct Relief is quite large relative to other organizations, but relative to the need that we’re trying to fulfill, what we’re doing is a drop in the bucket,” Tony Morain, Direct Relief’s VP of Communication, says. “We always wish that we could be doing more.” 

Adds Dean Axelrod, VP of Partnerships in Philanthropy: “The dream is to never have to say no.”

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