'We're not just a business'

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

FREEPORT, Ill. - When Freeport Home Medical Equipment in August offered a program to help seniors with their balance, they figured 30 would sign up.

They got more than 100.

Hosting such a program is just one of the many ways the provider has knit itself into the fabric of the local community, said company founder Carolyn Sluiter.

"The more we can help the community, the more it's going to grow our business," she said. "We all care and we all want to be involved."

It's a philosophy that has served Sluiter well since she first opened Freeport Home Medical in 2001. She now employs 14 people and in September opened a second store in Belvedere.

The new 2,000-square-foot location is located on Main Street in Belvedere's historic downtown district. Freeport Home Medical offers a full line of DME, respiratory and sleep; and recently expanded its mastectomy offerings.

"I can't say that I've been into my competitor's location and counted the inventory, but ours is better," said Sluiter.

The provider is working with the local chamber of commerce and a local business networking group to make itself known, but its behind-the-scenes projects are what raises the company profile. In addition to hosting senior programs, Freeport sponsors fundraisers held by local organizations, and helps out with equipment or other services. The provider also stepped in when state funding for breast pumps dried up, said Jae Hezlep, director of marketing.

"The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program came to us and asked us to get involved," she said. "Carolyn immediately said yes. We currently have more than 50 low-income women who are eligible."

Freeport Home Medical will continue to lend its hand, despite Medicare reimbursement cuts and the increasing cost of doing business. Sluiter said she wouldn't have it any other way.

"The reason that I even opened my doors is I felt with DME we are part of this whole chain of health care," said Sluiter. "It's a huge issue in any community and we are part of that. We're not just a business."