Chesterton Tribune

Westchester Medical Closet moves to Duneland Resale, seeking volunteers

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The Westchester Medical Equipment Closet recently settled into its first permanent quarters, and is now seeking community support to expand.

The Medical Closet, which loans out medical related equipment and is run solely by volunteers, now has set hours -- every Tuesday from 1 to 3:45 p.m. --- at the Duneland Community Center, which also houses the Duneland Resale Shop and the Westchester Neighbors Food Pantry.

Closet volunteer Natalie Halpin said the group is now looking for a few additional volunteers so that it can open on Friday afternoons as well.

The Westchester Medical Closet was founded by Joan Knibbs and exclusively serves residents of Westchester, Liberty, Jackson and Pine townships in need of equipment like wheelchairs, commodes, and crutches. Over the years, Knibbs ran the nonprofit from her home, her garage and a storage unit. As Knibbs recalled, whenever someone called, she would meet with them and get them the item needed on demand.

But with the recent move to 801 Broadway, the Medical Closet has the ability to hold set hours, which it hasnít been able to do before.

The move has been in the works for months, as the Medical Closet finalized its lease. Its sponsor, Porter United Methodist Church, recently renewed its affiliation with the Medical Closet after finalizing liability coverage issues.

The Closet also enlisted volunteer help from Troop 908 Scout Tom McGue, who as part of his Eagle Scout project, put up shelving, designed the office space, and helped move the items from the storage shed. The Closet officially opened at its new home on Oct. 4.

Halpin said the Closet has about 600 items that it loans free of charge. The items are definitely put to good use: About half of the items are currently out on loan. The Closet loans the items at no charge, with the request that the items are returned in good working order within 90 days.

Halpin noted that a wide variety of people are served by the Closet. Many people recovering from an elective surgery donít have the insurance needed for a wheelchair or other device, or they donít want to go through the insurance hassles, especially if they need the equipment for only a short time. Some people also call the Closet for equipment to have on hand when an aging parent, friend or relative comes in for a visit.

Halpin said the move to 801 Broadway has been a positive experience. She described the Closetís situation as a ďcoming of age,Ē as it makes its transition from its humble beginnings run solely by Knibbs at all hours of the day to a more structured organization that has had to reckon with the realities of liability insurance and the like.

With its established site and set hours also comes the need for more volunteers.

The Medical Closet ideally would like to have three additional volunteers so that it could expand to Fridays while allowing the volunteers to rotate shifts. The Closet now has four regular and two substitute volunteers. Halpin said new volunteers would probably put in about one afternoon per month.

For more information or to volunteer, call Porter United Methodist Church at 926-1586.


Posted 10/18/2011