Castlegar Red Cross program widely used.

Success of Red Cross equipment loan program leads to call for volunteers

Castlegar's Red Cross is continuing to offer important services to the community through its health equipment loan program (HELP).

Castlegar’s Red Cross is continuing to offer important services to the community through its health equipment loan program (HELP). The program loans medical equipment to clients that are post-surgery, post-accident or dealing with an illness so they can be more mobile and independent in the community.

The program saves people who are already suffering from having to spend a lot of money on things they may only need for a short period of time. “If I had to buy this stuff it would have cost me a fortune,” said Marc Conacher, a recent client of HELP. “That stuff was a life saver. Everything I used — I really needed it. It was a very positive experience for me, I came in and they were very professional. It’s a fantastic organization.”

Conacher will be in need of HELP’s services again in a few months as he faces another surgery. “I’m really, really grateful they are there,” he said.

Without HELP, many people with medical equipment needs would not purchase all of the equipment recommended to them by their healthcare providers, potentially hindering their recoveries.

Because HELP is so successful, they are currently in need of at least four more volunteers. “Over the years, the demand for our equipment has increased and that is partly why our demand for volunteers is increasing, so we can keep up with that demand and still provide quality service to people,” said program coordinator Susan Kolebaba.

Volunteers help with everything from reception, client services and paperwork to cleaning and disinfecting equipment. Ideally, they volunteer one day a week for a three hour shift. HELP is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday. If enough volunteers come forward, HELP would consider extending program hours. “It would be nice to be able to provide the service for the community on Fridays,” said Kolebaba.

Castlegar Red Cross also has a disaster management arm that kicks in when there is a local disaster, working in partnership with local authorities, but is always preparing for an emergency. “They are always meeting and training,” said Kolebaba. “That’s what makes them so wonderfully efficient when the time arrives.”