Health equipment heroes

A kind face and a helpful service can make all the difference when you are recovering from an ordeal like major surgery. The Health Equipment Loans Program (HELP) at the Red Cross is exactly that: caring individuals providing exactly the right thing to people in crisis.

The HELP program is staffed entirely by volunteers, and they are among the most skilled and dedicated citizens I've met in my travels among Okanagan non-profit agencies. Program Manager Craig Burns agrees.

"Our volunteers are the key operations people for the success of the Health Equipment program.  They are fully trained and work directly in our client service, repair, sanitation, and transportation areas.  We highly value their commitment, skills and expertise to the HELP program."

The volunteers tell me their work is about much more than walkers and wheelchairs. First and foremost, it's about showing compassion and kindness to fellow human beings.

"I try to make it as easy as possible," says Sylvia, a new HELP Program volunteer. "Some kind of tragedy or struggle or challenge has brought each person here. When you take the time to meet with them and connect with their pain, you can lessen it by sharing it. We let them talk and they know they aren't alone. The connection makes their day better."

The job offers a real diversity of activities, something that Penny, a regular volunteer for the past three years, finds interesting and fulfilling.

"We handle faxes, record-keeping, computers, data entry, customer service, phone calls, equipment maintenance and repairs, cleaning equipment, everything. A fellow recently came in and was shocked that people would do all this for nothing. It's a different mindset for some people, to give back."

Fortunately, many others have caught on to the joy that comes from giving. Sylvia shares the impact achieved when a young girl recently donated her birthday money to the Red Cross. It was an act of pure generosity that touched the hearts of volunteers, and re-affirmed the sense of purpose that fuels their mission.

"I don't know what kind of parents that girl had or what kind of lessons they've shown her, but she's destined for greatness with that kind of social consciousness."

The volunteers point out that their work significantly reduces the operational costs for the organization, but every donation is urgently needed to ensure that the program remains available for the hundreds of people who require temporary medical equipment every year.

There is no set fee for borrowing the equipment. Users of the service are encouraged to contribute what they can afford, and in the ways that they are able. They can donate money, time or equipment, and advocate for others to contribute as well.

"It's the ultimate in reducing, reusing, and recycling," says Sylvia. "The equipment doesn't go in the landfills. It gets reused over and over by everyone. Imagine if everyone had to buy everything they needed and then just got rid of it afterward."

The Red Cross is a United Way Community Partner Agency. Change starts here, because compassion and practical solutions are offered by those who can give back. To find out how you can be part of change, visit www.unitedwaycso.com.

For more information on the Canadian Red Cross and the Health Equipment Loans Program, please visit www.redcross.ca or call 250-763-1859 or e-mail [email protected]. All health equipment loans require a referral from a regulated and registered health care professional.

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About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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