In 1987 Dr. James Jackson of Evergreen watched as the first container ship, filled with outdated medical equipment, still perfectly good–but considered obsolete in American hospitals–left for Zimbabwe. It was the beginning of Project CURE (Commission on Urgent Relief and Equipment), which now sends vitally needed medical supplies to 134 countries. Somewhere, in their meticulously documented files (integrity is uppermost in the organization’s standards) they could tell you how many containers, bandages, respirators, etc. have been delivered around the globe. What they can’t tell you is the exact number of infections cleared, injuries stitched, and lives saved.
Jackson didn’t start out wanting to affect lives across the globe; as a kid, he just “wanted to be a millionaire by the time (he) was 25.” He met that goal many times over. Having grown up with a father who taught him about barter and trade, he and his brothers had business skills that set them off to make deals in all avenues, including starting both Winter Park and Vail ski areas.
With a loving wife, two sons, and more wealth than he knew what to do with, he began to see life with a new eye. “At thirty years old, none of my partners, none of the people I worked with were happy. You have to do one more deal, you go to a party and brag about the last deal you made. I told (my wife) Anna Marie, “ ‘I think I’m addicted. If there’s some way to figure this out, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life doing this.’ I believe that God put us together and she has always been a support; I couldn’t have done what I did without her.”
The couple has literally been together since the day they were born, sharing a nursery in the same hospital where their mothers delivered them, in Nampa, Idaho. “Our parents were friends before we ever came along,” said Anna Marie.
Jackson pondered what the future held and came home one evening and suggested that they sell all of their properties and give the money to charities. His life partner may have even been ahead of him, as she instantly agreed to do just that. In the end, everything was liquidated, except for their home in Evergreen that sits along Upper Bear Creek. That was the one deal that Jackson couldn’t close; he couldn’t understand why.
Years later, he would find that their home would become a safe place for international leaders to find refuge, as well as a wonderful venue to host dignitaries from across the world.
Finding himself starting afresh, he asked himself, "Where do I go and what happens? And that's when I stopped and closed the gates, and wrote my first book, "What'cha Goona Do with What'cha Got?"
As a result of his book, Jackson met with a number of executives from major American companies. “They said if we try to expand into these undeveloped companies, we’re hampered because of the dictatorial (business practices). The common people will never be able to expand into a growth economy at all; it’s all scraped off at the top.” Jackson’s novel idea was to “forget about the money, start thinking about how to develop an economy on a different value system.” As a result of that meeting, he was part of a brainstorming session, sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. By the end of the evening, the personal representative of Robert Mugabe invited him to come to Zimbabwe. “She said, ‘Why don’t we communicate and we’ll see how it goes.’ Mugabe sent his nephew and (an Economics specialist) where “they stayed in our guest room; I spent about 30 days with them.”
Jackson later traveled to Zimbabwe, at the time the “breadbasket of Africa,” that had an incredible abundance of maize they had to store. “Just across the Zambezi River in Zambia, the people were starving because they were on the copper economy and the copper price had plummeted.” Jackson “put the deal together to trade maize and copper. I helped them find warehouses in London where they kept (the copper) until prices went up again. That started interest from Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, and Brazil.
Later, Jackson went to Brazil to work with the US chief economist, on a proposal that allowed debt for equity exchange, such as “property, port access, and other real estate. It ended up great, they even pre-paid taxes for debt for equity swapping. I spent 2 ½ years in Brazil working on that,” leaving Anna Marie at home for two to three weeks at a time.
Jackson wondered why his life was putting him in contact with heads of state until a Brazilian interpreter exposed him to the vile conditions that existed throughout Brazilian communities. When a doctor working with practically no supplies or decent conditions asked if Jackson could help him, he said he didn’t know anything about medicine, but that he would try to help if he could. “I told him ‘If I get you supplies, you have to promise me it won’t get to the Black Market.” The doctor said Jackson knows the president, and that he should ask him. He did. Not only did they guarantee safety, but they helped with customs and even provided a secure warehouse.
Faced with the responsibility, Jackson followed advice he had given his sons over the years: If you’re willing to make eight telephone calls, you’ll find your answer. If you’re willing to call, people will help you.” A couple calls, some meetings, and before Jackson knew it, he had over $50,000 worth of donated medical supplies. The patience of his wife and close neighbors, willing to remove cars from garages, created space to store the initial supplies. Later, answers to the need for warehouse space, trucks, shipping, and other necessities came Jackson's way.
Today, Project CURE has warehouse sites in Denver, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City – MO, Philadelphia, Nashville, and Phoenix, with headquarters right here in Centennial, CO. “Our goal is to have 25 huge warehouses across the US, one in each major medical center.” Jackson has never taken a dime from Project CURE. Anna Marie added that they actually continue to contribute to it.
As of June 2021, Project CURE has shipped 2,078 containers, they have benefitted from 146,501 generous individual, spiritual, corporate, and charity volunteers’ hours, and they continue to serve 134 countries.
“Our old dad taught us: don’t whine, take what you have, and make it into what you need. Always remember if you want the deal to stay together, everyone in the deal has to end up better off.” It’s pretty good advice from a man who has walked the talk.
To learn more about Project CURE including travel, volunteer, and donation opportunities, look to projectcure.org.
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Making other people better off
What is your greatest fear: I haven’t injected enough goodness into this work, yet
What is your proudest moment? When I took my flashlight and lunchbox and found my way out of my mother’s womb and discovered glorious sunlight
What is your dream? Making other people better off
What do you admire in others? Integrity
Who is your hero? The Prophet Eliah
What is your strongest trait? Not sure
If you could meet anyone, alive or deceased who would it be? Jesus of Nazareth
What is your most precious possession? The gift of love
What is your greatest regret? Anna Mare and I have been married 62 years – I regret I did not marry her sooner
What is your motto? Stop whining – Take what you have and make it into what you need or want
What kind of books do you enjoy? Economics
What do you do on your day off? Don’t have any day off
What is luxurious to you? Chai latte