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My name is Howard, and I founded Vitamin Angels in 1994. My first passion in my early 20’s was childbirth education and midwifery. I was part of the home birth movement in the 1970’s and attended over 55 births. It was an incredible experience.
We conducted scrupulous prenatal work including nutritional counseling. Many of our clients were vegetarians and vegans, so ensuring their hemoglobin levels were high enough was essential for a healthy and safe pregnancy. As a result, I became very involved in nutritional research and was fascinated with the work being done.
I used the incredible experience I gained in nutrition to launch a career in the natural products industry. Building on my nutritional research, I developed a number of nationally recognized brands. But after 14 years of success in the natural products industry, I felt something was missing.
I remember answering the question ‘What do you want to be remembered for?’ I felt if I died tomorrow, my obituary would read ‘He sold a lot of products’. After reflecting, I recalled that the reason I went into the natural products industry was to make this world a healthier place. I knew there was more to accomplish, and I knew I wanted to focus on children in need.
What I didn’t know was how to reach at-risk children in rural communities around the world. I had no idea that basic nutrition could have an incredible impact on their lives, and I certainly never dreamed providing vitamins to children who are chronically undernourished would be recognized as a centerpiece for global health only 16 years later.
I was first able to use my industry connections to donate vitamins to victims of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Southern California. After this initial donation, I met with a relief agency and asked them what was needed in the way of vitamins. They quickly responded, “we need everything.” Then they told me that 2 capsules of high dose vitamin A a year could prevent children from going blind and save lives. I was stunned. I had been selling vitamins for 14 years and had never heard this before. I remember leaving that meeting in disbelief. Three weeks after that first vitamin donation, Vitamin Angels was born. In our first year, we gave away 100,000 vitamins. By 2004, we were distributing 23.4 million supplements. Then 2005 started with the tsunami in Indonesia and ended with hurricanes Katrina and Rita, as well as an earthquake in Pakistan and flooding in Guatemala.
Vitamin Angels grew to distribute over 100 million supplements that year. We were stretched thin with an all-volunteer staff and few resources and I had taken out a 2nd and 3rd mortgage on my house to keep Vitamin Angels going. It was time to formalize the organization, bring on a full time staff, and see how many children we could really reach. In 2014, I’m proud to say that we are working to reach 40 million children in about 45 countries including the U.S. with a full-time staff of almost 30!
As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, I want to express my thanks to all those who have supported Vitamin Angels. I truly believe Vitamin Angels came into being to give children and mothers the chance to lead meaningful, healthy and productive lives. We have an opportunity to address chronic undernutrition and vitamin deficiency on a global level. And with your support, we can deliver lifesaving and life changing vitamins and minerals to at-risk populations in need.