Providers make time to help

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

PUEBLO, Colo. - When two nonprofits here merged in January, the combined organization strengthened its ability to provide DME--among other services--to some of the community's most needy residents.
"Our agency caters to underserved, uninsured seniors, but anyone is welcome," said Chuck Lewis, data management and administration at StepUp.
When it come to helping those in dire straits, however, nonprofits aren't alone. Rank-and-file HME providers regularly chip in, viewing their ability to do so as a way to give back to the community.
In addition to HME, oxygen and medical supplies, for example, Sam Clay sells cookbooks, just one of many fundraisers the Petersburg, Va.-based Clay Home Medical does for a local battered women's shelter.
"We've sold 700 out of 1,000 already," said Clay, company president. The books cost $4.80 each to publish and sell for $10.00. The project is in its fourth year, and this year Clay will present the shelter with a check for $5,000. The company sponsors and participates in many causes and encourages employees to do the same.
The same is true at Central Medical Equipment in Harrisburg, Pa. The company works with two hospice organizations and the local Muscular Dystrophy and ALS Associations, among others, providing not only equipment and funds but sweat equity.
"We repair chairs at no charge," said President Terry Luft, who gets many requests from social service agencies to help the uninsured.
"Whether it be a walker or CPAP or free repair, we lend a hand," said Luft. "It's good business and it's our obligation."
Others reach farther to help. Jim Smith, purchasing and marketing manager for Texas DME in Cleburne, Texas, and owner Tom Hafford have traveled to Cost Rica as part of the Wheels for Humanity program. There, they repaired manual and power chairs donated by medical equipment companies.They then fit the chairs to people. Some had chairs so old they were driving on metal rims and sitting on threadbare seats.
"There was a 25-year-old paralyzed from the waist down," said Smith. "We got him a Power Ranger, loaded into his uncle's little truck. He just had tears flowing down his face. It's one of those moments that grabs you."