The Lending Cupboard, the Red Deer-based society that lends out medical equipment at no cost across Central Alberta, continues to meet a growing need across the region.
The organization is a registered not-for-profit society and was founded by Jaqui Joys in the summer of 2006. It operates through some support from Alberta Health Services, with the bulk of support stemming from grants, fundraising and private donations.
There are about 7,500 pieces of equipment on hand, and staff process an average of 650 loans every month for situations ranging from extreme sports injuries, those recovering from illness or surgery to end of life care. There is equipment for children, youth, adults and seniors.
“I think of a child with cerebral palsy who was going to have to wait an extended period of time for a specialized walker,” explains Executive Director Dawna Morey. “We were able to fit that child with a walker. He took his first steps – his mom was in tears.”
Equipment available runs the gamut from wheelchairs, walkers, bath chairs and commodes to hospital beds, crutches and canes, hydraulic lifts and bed rails.
Morey has been at the helm of the busy organization, which is located at 5406 – 43rd St., since last July.
She has overseen some changes at the Cupboard which have helped it to keep pace with its significant growth. “If we do a comparison, they assisted 486 people in the first year. Since July of last year till now, (the first six months of their fiscal year) we’ve seen 1,855 clients,” she said. “We do get referrals from across the spectrum including doctors’ offices and hospitals throughout the region. That includes Lacombe, Innisfail and Sylvan Lake,” she added. “So it’s much more than word of mouth.”
During a typical five-hour day, about 45 calls are made and taken in by the receptionist.
“And those calls aren’t just about, ‘What are the hours of your operation?’ They are calling about equipment. And beyond that, if we don’t have that type of equipment, we have to be informed on where to refer that caller. We want the clients to know we’ve got their interests at heart as we will help.”
Looking ahead, Morey said the plan is to complete a community needs assessment. “That would involve having somebody come in and be able to pull together information we know is available through Statistics Canada, the City of Red Deer and hopefully through other community stakeholders like AHS, clinics or occupational therapists for example.”
Projected aging rates within local communities, projected increases in surgeries and what’s happening in terms of home care would all be extremely useful pieces of information, she said.
Meanwhile, on the volunteer front, the Lending Cupboard continues to attract a team that helps out in a number of ways from cleaning and maintaining equipment to working directly with clients and their families in selecting the right equipment for their particular need.
Terena Seaward, volunteer coordinator, said there are currently between about 70 to 80 volunteers.
Experience with medical equipment is of course an asset, but by no means a requirement. Being compassionate, empathetic and understanding are important attributes for volunteers, she said. “Everyone that comes in here needing medical equipment is obviously going through a scary time – they might be having surgery for example, or they could be getting something for their ailing parents. Or the donations are coming from a parent who has passed away so there are some people who when they come in, they want to tell the story of what happened. You have to show understanding towards their personal situations.”
Harvey Jackson has been helping out for about two years. He saw firsthand how the organization had provided such assistance to his mother-in-law, and realized what a service it was to the community.
He enjoys the spirit of working together with others for a common cause, adding he spends about 10 hours a week there.
“You meet different people – a lot of retired folks. Several ladies here also volunteer for maybe half a dozen outfits, and they come here as well. But the big thing is meeting people – eventually you find out a little bit more about their lives and their histories.
“I just knew this would be worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, staff are selling tickets for the Feb. 11th performance of a dinner theatre at the Lacombe Golf and Country Club. Doors for the acclaimed comedy, called The Cemetery Club, open at 6 p.m. with dinner to follow at 6:30 p.m. The show is being staged by the Cow Patti Theatre Company.
Curtain is at 8 p.m. Tickets are $65 each and a percentage of the proceeds will go to helping support the Lending Cupboard.
Ultimately, Morey and her team see what they do as far more than simply a place to work.
“The Lending Cupboard fills my heart. We know that with every single client that comes through our door that we are impacting their lives,” she said. “It’s such a great team of staff and volunteers here, too. I hear from them, every single day that they come in, that it’s a joy for them, too. So the energy is good at the Lending Cupboard.”
Check out www.lendingcupboard.ca or call 403-356-1678.