JOHNSTOWN — A Johnstown hearing aid store is embarking on a holiday missionary trip to Puerto Rico that could prove life-changing for a group of residents in need.
Three representatives from the Johnstown Miracle-Ear store are traveling to the U.S. territory on Nov. 28 to donate 350 hearing aids to 175 island residents in need.
Rick Frasier, who owns 600 Miracle-Ear locations across 23 states, will travel on the mission with his wife, Mary, and Miracle-Ear Vice President Carl Case.
The Johnstown resident has previously hosted clinics stateside thanks to funding from the Miracle-Ear Foundation.
“We’ve been doing missions in the United States plus in our stores every day and every year where we give away hearing aids to the less fortunate that qualify,” Frasier said. “We’ve done missions in St. Louis, Kansas City, in Kentucky with coal miners and we just did one down in New Jersey.”
After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in 2017, an idea was hatched to distribute hearing aids to Puerto Ricans in need. After the pandemic scuttled early plans to make the trip, the six-day excursion is now set to begin on Monday.
“There’s a lot of people there that can’t afford them,” Frasier said. “We found a [store] owner in Puerto Rico named Eugene Gomez who was able to get a bunch of people lined up for us to be able to go down and give away a bunch of free hearing aids. We thought this would be a cool way of helping people. It’s quite amazing when someone can’t hear and all of a sudden you can give them a chance to hear. It’s quite moving.”
The hearing aid recipients will also receive lifetime care and maintenance for their hearing devices, and the patients have already been tested to ensure that the devices are suitable for each beneficiary.
To help subsidize the costs of the trip, the Miracle-Ear Foundation and Miracle-Ear are investing over $1 million for hearing aid technology and staff resources.
“We ask all of our hearing professionals and audiologists to donate their time back to take care of these people,” Frasier said.
Since its inception in 1990, the Miracle-Ear Foundation has donated more than 34,000 hearing aids to more than 18,000 recipients nationwide.
Frasier said that after the upcoming missionary trip to Puerto Rico he hopes to continue expanding the store’s charity efforts across the country.
“Our wishlist right now has been to do more missions right here in the United States,” he said. “We’re looking at different markets throughout the areas that my wife and I are very much involved in with the foundation.”