Tucked in the middle of a commercial block in American Fork sits the non-descript warehouse of Lifting Hands International, or LHI, where miracles are performed daily. Small donations of diapers, blankets, sweaters and socks arrive in plastic bags and quickly processed to fill huge shipping containers with relief supplies for refugees worldwide.
Founder Hayley Smith was a volunteer assisting Syrian refugees in 2015. She experienced first-hand the frenzy of ripping through bundles of unlabeled and unsorted clothing to find blankets and warm clothes—wasting precious time as wet, hypothermic people stood shivering. She knew there was a better way. Returning home, Hayley created a system to organize and label every box, providing spreadsheets for customs and partners to expedite care to the deeply stressed, newly arrived exiles.
From the original, single container to Lebanon that Hayley organized five years ago, LHI typically sends up to two a month. Since the first of this year, 10 containers have shipped to Jordan, Bangladesh, Greece, Gaza, Turkey, Syria and some African nations. Since the war in Ukraine began, Poland and Romania were added to the list.
While Hayley surveys camps abroad to track actual needs, the warehouse and volunteer forces are managed by Traci Parson, a mother of five, who spends 40 to 70 hours a week, taking in donations, sorting, labeling, boxing and allocating according to the needs of each camp. During an hour-long interview, Traci never stopped moving boxes, directing volunteers and answering their questions.
Traci says she felt she was prepared for LHI by many prior experiences.
“Every time we moved, I was called to humanitarian work. When I saw the pictures of Aylan Kurdi, the three-year-old whose drowned body washed up on a beach, I knew I had to do something.”
“Tracy is built for this place,” says Joy White, who volunteers two days a week. “She can deal with the chaos and not be bothered by it.”
Asked what the greatest needs are, Traci suggests visiting the Needs List tab on their website for printable lists.
“People know how to serve,” she said, “but they want to know the aid will get to those who truly need it. With our in-country partners on the ground 24/7, supplies get into the right hands quickly.”
For five years in a row, LHI has earned the respected Candid Platinum Seal of Transparency for nonprofits. Learn how you can get involved at liftinghandsinternationl.org.