The Journal

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (AP) _ A free, local program to collect and share medical equipment _ a year-old effort that began as a collaborative effort between the Independent Bible Church and Panhandle Home Health Inc. _ continues to grow, and that was clear on July 26 as volunteers helped clean the inventory of hospital beds, wheelchairs and different types of walkers.

In addition to local individuals and families who have donated equipment to be reused by others, the program has also gotten strong support from other sources – including the donation of four rooms at the Shockey Commerce Center for storing the medical equipment, as well as former Berkeley County Sheriff and lottery winner Randy Smith’s financial aid, said Chris Johnson, Panhandle Home Health’s director of resource development.

Due to the growing inventory – which now includes five motorized wheelchairs – the extra help on July 26 from the church’s “Feet on the Street” event was both timely and important, Johnson said with a smile, gesturing toward rooms filled with various items that also included adult diapers and medical supplies such as boxes of gauze bandages.

Approximately a dozen men were busy in the front room working with hospital beds – testing to see which ones worked, what was wrong with others and also trying to fix those problems.

But given the program’s growing popularity, there’s still a lot to be done and even more volunteers are needed, Johnson said.

For example, volunteers are needed to help staff the distribution site so that equipment can be picked up by those who need it, she said.

The hours and days are flexible, according to Johnson, who is willing to work with people to fit their schedules and available days.

“I just can’t stress how much we need, and would appreciate, some volunteers to help out this way,” she said.

Church member Karen Spence said she was happy with the progress made by her fellow volunteers in just a couple of hours, adding, “When we first came in the front room you couldn’t hardly move at all because everything had just been kind of stuck in there, so it is a lot better than when we started.”

Other volunteers were also on the road Sunday and picking up harder-to-handle items like lift chairs, she said.

“This is a great program, because there’s no money exchanged and this equipment is all loaned to whoever needs it. And when they are finished, it is brought back to be used by someone else,” Spence said.

The Rev. Brad Heacock, who serves as the church’s pastor of outreach services, said he is personally familiar with how much this type of program can mean because of his own daughter’s special needs.

Not only can it be difficult to get some equipment through insurance, it takes time to do the necessary paperwork and some individuals have no one to guide them through the process, he said.

“And in my daughter’s case, she is growing that means her needs really change from year to year. It’s just a big help to have this kind of medical equipment available this way,” Heacock said.