It was a time of celebration recently as The Lending Cupboard marked 10 years of serving communities across Central Alberta.
The Lending Cupboard is a Red Deer-based society that lends out medical equipment at no cost across Central Alberta, and it 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.
Joys established The Lending Cupboard after losing her husband Alan to cancer in 2002.
When they needed medical equipment for Alan at home, she discovered she couldn’t rent or purchase a bed soon enough for their needs.
She was referred to a business owner in London, Ontario who had started a comparable medical equipment lending organization there. That contact resulted in Jaqui and Alan receiving a bed the same day; Alan passed away two weeks later.
In 2003, Jaqui founded the Alan Joys (AJ’s) Loan Cupboard Society in Medicine Hat.
The same year, she began exploring a similar service in Red Deer, where she moved six months after Alan’s passing.
The organization 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.
“From July 1st of 2015 to June 30th, 2016, more than 4,300 people took equipment out,” said Executive Director Dawna Morey. “We processed 15,689 pieces of equipment as well. That also represents about 8,000 hours of volunteerism.”
Equipment available runs the gamut from wheelchairs, walkers, bath chairs and commodes to hospital beds, crutches and canes, hydraulic lifts and bed rails.
Joys was also one of several past and present staff, volunteers and supporters who attended a special 10th anniversary event last week at Parkland Nurseries.
She reminisced about those early days when the Cupboard was first established. “It’s a pleasure to be back and to see so many faces that I recognize,” she said. “I’m so happy to see you.”
As for starting the Cupboard, Joys recalled it as a time of seeing folks really come together including local Rotarians and the health region of the time as well.
“The support just kept coming and kept coming,” she said. “At our official opening, we had people there from the City, the mayor was there and representatives from the health region. That all just helped put it together.”
Morey said she believed they have the best and most dedicated volunteers in Central Alberta. “They’ve provided us with more than 8,000 hours of volunteerism in the past year.
“This is truly only in existence because of the generosity of our volunteers and the contributions from the people that come in and serve,” she said, adding that volunteers help 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.
“The board is also committed, engaged, forward thinking and they are passionate to see the vision of the Lending Cupboard alive in Central Alberta,” she said.
Increasingly, Morey said the home care clients are coming to The Lending Cupboard for assistance as well.
“Many in rural communities and seniors who have chronic illnesses and diseases – they may not always have access as well,” she said. “But we are also talking about short-term situations. So to go out and purchase equipment for the short term – what happens to it afterwards? So we look at things from that perspective, too.”
And as Morey pointed out, part of the goal is to provide that extra bit of attention to clients who come in looking for assistance. “That they are being served by caring people and they are being fitted appropriately,” she said.
Also, part of looking ahead includes a Community Needs Assessment, which has been undertaken over the past several months. “It’s important that we undertake this ambitious project so that we can manage our growth, including planning for our facility, staffing and financial needs, both in the near future and coming years.” Details will be examined in October.
“The whole report will be public – we will be making it available to everybody.”
These days, Morey is excited about the future of The Lending Cupboard, and for her, it also provides a meaningful and fulfilling line of work.
“When I was in leadership training, I learned that what we want to do as community leaders is to connect our passion to our paycheck. I have to say, I’ve been able to do that three times in my life.
“Once when I worked in education, secondly when I worked at CiRS in the Community Village and now at The Lending Cupboard. I purposefully was looking for something where I could make an impact on the community,” she said.
“There is such a need, and such a future in this area that isn’t going to decrease.”
Check out www.lendingcupboard.ca or call 403-356-1678.