A Frederick nonprofit’s decision to end a 50-year program that provided free medical equipment to residents in need has created a void — a void that other nonprofits are trying to fill.
Federated Charities closed its medical loan closet, which provided crutches, walkers, wheelchairs and other non-electric medical supplies free of charge to anyone in Frederick County, on July 1.
According to executive director Elin Ross, the loan closet no longer fit into the nonprofit’s mission of providing support to other nonprofits.
Maintaining the loan closet cost Federated Charities $25,000 plus insurance each year, an expense that “cuts into supporting nonprofits,” Ross said.
Several Lions Club chapters in Frederick County continue to offer hospital supplies after Federated Charities shuttered its loan closet.
The Mount Airy Lions Club has a “pretty full” warehouse of basic medical equipment including hospital beds, shower chairs, walkers and wheelchairs, club treasurer Dennis Ahalt said.
“We have practically everything people would need immediately,” Ahalt said.
When someone wants to borrow equipment from the Mount Airy chapter, they can call the chapter and make an appointment, Ahalt said.
Lions Club International is a volunteer organization made up of individual chapters that aim “to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding,” according to the organization’s website.
The Libertytown-Unionville chapter in Libertytown also provides medical equipment, according to the website for Lions Club chapters in western Maryland.
The three clubs closest to the city of Frederick — FSK, Frederick and Yellow Springs — do not offer equipment, Frederick Lions Club secretary Leigh Joos said.
“There had always been another option with Federated Charities,” Joos said.
The Frederick Lions Club doesn’t have the space to run a medical equipment loan program, but “if we did, I would have loved to get involved in that,” Joos said.
Ben Strauss is one of the liaisons for the Libertytown-Unionville chapter. Those in need can contact him as well, he said.
“Delays [for the Mount Airy chapter] are no longer than a day,” Ahalt said.
There are also no restrictions on who can borrow equipment from the Lions Club or for how long.
“They get the equipment,” Ahalt said, “[and] they can use it for as long as they need [it].”
Norma Falcone, a Frederick resident who had borrowed medical equipment from Federated Charities at various times over the past 10 years, said that some of those who would suffer the most from the closing are the young, the elderly and those with poor health insurance.
“Millennials, the young ones, they may be too old to be on their parents’ health insurance,” but don’t necessarily have a job that offers good health coverage, Falcone said.
Since the closing, Federated Charities has posted a notice on its website suggesting that people call Maryland 211, a local nonprofit collective.
Like an operator, Maryland 211 connects people “to services and helping people problem-solve when the services they need are not available,” according to its website.
While there hasn’t been a change in the number of people looking to borrow equipment from the Mount Airy Lions Club since the closing, Ahalt said the organization has seen an influx of people looking to donate equipment.
“Our closet is so full of walkers that we’ve got to get rid of some of them,” Ahalt said.
There’s also been an increase at Whitesell’s Pharmacy of those looking to donate, but because of “our Medicare and everything,” the business is not able to lend equipment or receive equipment from others free of charge, office manager Jennifer Smith said.
“We’re not able to host the program. ... So we try to assist them to the best of our abilities,” Smith said.
When people come into the pharmacy looking for equipment, Smith said that she refers them to the Lions Club.
Beyond Frederick County, there are Lions Club chapters that provide medical equipment in Hagerstown, Boonsboro, Clear Spring, Funkstown, Hampstead and other towns in neighboring counties.
Contact information for individual chapters can be found online at www.e-district.org/sites/22w.