Friday, October 14, 2022

Medical Loan Closet assists community with medical equipment in tough times

By Masha Yurkevich

A medical emergency - we’ve all been there. A slip on the ice resulting in a broken leg, taking the laundry downstairs, and missing the last step; it’s happened to the majority of us. Oftentimes, it’s the elderly that get hit by this the hardest and they often have a hard time getting the needed and proper equipment to help them with their injuries. Since 1940, the Medical Loan Closet has been helping the Windham Raymond community along with surrounding towns by loaning out durable medical equipment to help mostly with mobility.

Since 1940 the Medical Loan Closet has been helping the
Windham and Raymond community along with the 
surrounding towns by loaning out durable medical
equipment to help mostly with mobility. It is at 221
Windham Center Road next to the Windham Public
Library. FILE PHOTO 
The Windham Medical Loan Closet is at 221 Windham Center Road, next to the Windham Public Library. Its idea was established by superintendent of schools at that time Frederick Alkens, and Windham school nurse Beverly Allen in the mid-1940s when they saw a need for loaning out medical equipment to those recuperating at home from various medical conditions who might not be able to afford purchasing it. Town doctors Sidney Branson and Robert Burns soon joined along with other volunteers.

At that time, the organization was known as the Windham Health Council. Their work first began with the schools, weighing and measuring children and in the 1950s, the Windham Health Council organized a Well Baby Clinic, which operated until about the later 1960s. About that time, Mrs. Allen and council volunteers led a move to make fluoride treatment available to all children of Windham. Then, in the 1970s, Windham Health Council was very active and influential in recruiting the town’s first dentist.

But perhaps the most enduring contribution of Windham Health Council is the Medical Loan Closet. It was launched by Helen Alkens when she saw the struggle of getting medical equipment to those recuperating at home from various medical conditions. From its humble beginning with just a hospital bed and a few children’s books, the medical closet has grown much bigger. It now falls under the Town Manager’s Office and has a small budget.

Lynda Murphy, Director of the Windham Medical Loan Closet, has just taken over after being led by Kristi MacKinnon for well over 10 years. Murphy has been volunteering at the loan closet for about five years.

“There are about nine current volunteers and Kristi and a few of our current members may have been volunteering for close to twenty years if not over that,” says Murphy. “Like many of us, we really aren’t sure when we may have started. I started volunteering because I had borrowed equipment for a family member and thought I would like to be a part of it.”

The Windham Medical Loan Closet serves the community and surrounding towns by loaning out durable medical equipment to help mostly with mobility. They do not have any electrically motivated equipment. They have mostly walkers, knee scooters, wheelchairs, shower chairs, commodes, bed rails, and some assortment of donated briefs and other medical items.

“We do not necessarily limit our service to just Windham/Raymond at all,” says Murphy. “Clients need only call 207-894-5999 and leave their message for what they need, and a volunteer calls them back. We try to limit the time of use to three months but there are exceptions made.”

Volunteers answer messages from Monday through Sunday and meet clients when they are available. The loan closet evaluates the client’s need for equipment, sets up a time and meets at the loan closet when convenient for both. There are no specific times that the closet is open to pick up or drop off equipment.

“We expect messages to always be left so volunteers can arrange a meeting,” said Murphy. “Currently, we find a great need for equipment and are likely to return many calls in a day. By the end of a week, we may well have met the needs of over 25 clients, though each week can be quite different.”

Volunteers do various other duties keeping up the loan closet, such as cleaning equipment and meeting clients. While Murphy says that she refers to herself as the director, she says that the loan closet only runs by all of the input of the volunteers and by helping each other.

“We have two meetings a year to fill out a schedule and volunteer a week every eight weeks as it works out currently,” says Murphy. “We fill in for each other and work around all of our schedules. We are always looking for helpers and volunteers and are glad to work around individual schedules.”

For Murphy, she believes that the purpose of the Medical Loan Closet has not changed much from when everything was first formed in the 1940s.

“We serve the needs of the community of Windham and surrounding areas by loaning some medical equipment, so they do not have to incur making that expense,” says Murphy. “We operate with the assistance of the town of Windham and our volunteers, sometimes receive donations of equipment and monetary donations from individuals and purchase some newer equipment. Our goal remains the same: helping those who have a need for our services. God bless those with a vision to serve in some small way, and that is what we do at the Windham Medical Loan Closet.”

As volunteers, they are all very committed to keeping the original purpose of this organization moving forward. It started with one person seeing a need and has continued forward with hundreds of people keeping it going.

To obtain equipment from the Medical Loan Closet, call 207-894-5999 and leave a message for what you are looking for and a volunteer will call back and follow up. <

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