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MAKING A MARK: Norfolk's PRA Group & Operation Smile

Operation Smile and PRA Group are both based in Hampton Roads, but their partnership is helping people all over the world.

NORFOLK, Va. — Two local groups have joined forces to transform children's lives across the globe.

"These children that have been impacted by cleft conditions needed help, and [Operation Smile is] providing amazing service to them," explained Chris Graves, global investments and analytics officer for nonperforming loans purchaser PRA Group.

The Norfolk-based company has partnered with Operation Smile for more than a decade.

"We're a global company. They're a global organization," said Graves. "We really have always looked for the biggest problems to solve and for the organizations that solve them very efficiently with the most impact. And it was very clear that Operation Smile has done an amazing job for a group of individuals that really needed their help."

Operation Smile provides cleft lip and palate repair surgeries to children worldwide. The Virginia Beach-based nonprofit said PRA Group's financial support helped them treat more than 15,000 patients through the pandemic. 

"It's the broad application of resources that really lets us get the whole mission done," said Fred Facka, Operation Smile director of planned giving. "All the way from inventory, contributions for in-kind medical supplies, transportation costs... It runs the whole operation. So, it's the life blood."

In honor of World Smile Day last year, PRA Group donated $100,000 to Operation Smile. Facka said the gift has allowed the nonprofit to work in places where children can't easily access cleft care.

"We can fund and invest in areas around the world that have little or no medical or healthcare infrastructure," he said.

The donation also supports outreach to local schools through educational programs, including the new Operation Smile Interactive Learning Center. It's an effort with a close connection for Graves.

"I've got twin daughters that have gone to a couple of the international student leadership conferences and been on mission trips," said Graves, "to see firsthand how they can impact, and the fact that there's a broader world out there with needs to provide service to."

As more children and families are impacted by cleft conditions across the globe, the goal of the partnership is to extend Operation Smile's impact to more people and places.

"Our duty is to partner with PRA Group and use their resources wisely to provide the best care in a timely fashion," said Facka.

"The more that can benefit Operation Smile, the more the world will benefit from it," said Graves.

Operation Smile celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. You can join PRA Group in supporting the nonprofit by making a donation.

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