Direct Relief
Courtesy Photo

This past week alone, Direct Relief has sent medical aid to Afghanistan, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Philippines, Romania, Senegal, Ukraine, and 37 U.S. states from its new warehouse next to the Santa Barbara airport which it has decided to name after Virgil Elings. The cofounder of Digital Instruments, who has notably endowed a park, college building, and high school aquatics center with his generosity, enabled Direct Relief to finalize the funding on its $40 million headquarters with a donation of $5.1 million.

“Building this facility was the largest project in Direct Relief’s 70-year history, so we are pleased that the campaign exceeded its goal, was concluded early, and that the project itself was completed on time and on budget,” said Thomas Tighe, who heads Direct Relief.

Virgil Elings was for 20 years an MIT-trained physics professor at UCSB. His investigations into nano-scale microscopes, with UCSB College of Creative Studies alum and physicist Gus Gurley, led to a commercially viable “scanning probe” microscope to view materials at the atomic level. He retired from Digital Instruments in 1999 after its merger with Veeco Instruments and moved to the Santa Ynez Valley (where he started a motorcycle museum) but has remained very involved in the Santa Barbara community.

Along with Elings’s donation, FedEx added $3 million to help Direct Relief complete its funding on the 155,000 square-foot building, and a total of $25 million was pledged by the Zegar Family Foundation, Dorothy Largay, Wayne Rosing, and numerous corporate partners, foundations, and individuals. Another $12.5 million in funding and services were raised by its Board of Directors under capital campaign co-chairs Dorothy Largay and Tom Cusack, with a large in-kind donation from Mark Linehan, of Wynmark Co., for management of the development.

“FedEx is privileged to be able to support Direct Relief in this mission,” said David J. Bronczek, FedEx’s president and chief operating officer. “We believe the new distribution center is a critical asset for humanitarian response which will enable the secure delivery of medications and other health essentials.”


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