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Holy Rollers Help People in Need

Volunteers with Direct Relief International Turn Hotels’ Trash into the Needy’s Treasure


Every Friday, 16 volunteers congregate at the Santa Barbara headquarters of Direct Relief International to rip and roll luxury hotel sheets into medical bandages to help those in need. Volunteers — who have dubbed themselves the “Holy Rollers” — have rolled over 350,000 bandages made from the clean sheets that are no longer fit for use at the Biltmore Four Seasons and Bacara Resort hotels.

Ranging in ages from 55 to 92, the dedicated team of women comes together to roll the bandages that are distributed throughout the United States and internationally to be used as arm slings, emergency splints, and to hold sterile bandages in place.

Charlotte Buldridge, a volunteer who has been rolling bandages for over 30 years, said that the Holy Rollers are a group of people who deeply care about the greater good of humanity and who want to make a difference. “It started with a small group of people who stepped up after the Red Cross volunteers said they were too old to continue their work in rolling bandages and handed off the job to Direct Relief in 1988,” said Buldridge. “What started off as a small group has expanded to so many people that we can’t all fit into one room! It’s great to know that we’re making a difference in someone’s life somewhere in the world.”

Direct Relief International works with more than 1,000 health clinics across the country to provide — through donations made by pharmaceutical companies — free medications and medical materials to uninsured and underserved patients. The organization was also the world’s largest medical supplier to Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake and sends medical bandages internationally to countries like Africa that are in dire need of clean and sanitary medical supplies.

Thomas Tighe, the president and CEO of Direct Relief International, says that it isn’t about making money or turning a profit but rather about the people they’re helping and the volunteers who continue to care and show up to help. “Even though the Holy Rollers are just a small part of the greater organization, they still play an important part in the organization’s overall mission of bringing medical aid to those in need,” said Tighe. “Direct Relief couldn’t function without the volunteers — they provide the spirit and enthusiasm needed to continue to make a difference in the lives of the people we are helping worldwide.”

To find more information about the organization or to learn how to volunteer, visit directrelief.org.

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