We have a handful of great volunteers at North Beach Medical Equipment that do amazing work, but for the most part it is just me. I like that, because I enjoy the quiet and can get projects done, as my ADHD tends to overwhelm me when I have a "crew" here. The drawback to all of this is that when I don't feel well I can't just call in sick and hope that my coworkers can fill in for me. I have to decide whether I am just "under the weather" or actually sick. Am I likely to make someone else sick, someone who is older and weaker? Can I just "ride it out" or do I need to close the store so that I can rest and recover, away from people that could be really hurt by the bug-of-the-month?
You may be wondering why this is on my mind. Lately, I have not been sleeping well, so this current "ick" that I am dealing with is likely just fatigue and changing weather, allowing me to be at the store working. I know that sometimes, closing the store for a day can help to ensure that I am back to work the next day and not out for a week. It's a hard decision to make, but there are too many people counting on us to be here when they need us; we will do our best to not let them down.
Often, we find that growing necessitates change. After helping more than 5,000 people, we are getting a feel as to what is most often needed by most of the people that we serve. Incontinence supplies and shower chairs are the most common, power wheelchairs are waaaaay down the list. So why were we spending so much time, money and resources on them? Because they are kinda cool and it's very hard for people to get them on their own. We have repaired and given away many power wheelchairs over the years, and they are a great blessing to the people who get them... for a while.
What we are finding is that new batteries do not, a new wheelchair make. Often, the equipment that is donated to us is 5, 10, or even 15 years old, and it's reliability is an unknown. Will it last for years, or will it just stop, leaving someone stranded? Will the person continuously be coming back to us to keep alive what was never designed to be used this long, using up time, energy and finances that could be better used elsewhere?
After much thought, discussion and prayer, we decided to stop dealing with power wheelchairs and scooters. While they will be missed by the 1% of our clients that needed them, we feel that by eliminating them, we will be better able to serve everyone else. We would much rather focus on what we can do now, than what we may do later.
So, if you see equipment sitting out behind the store that you want to part out, or even try to get running, please let us know and we will be happy to send them home with you.
We often have teenagers volunteering at North Beach Medical Equipment. Sometimes it's because they have gotten into a little trouble and the courts said that they could perform community service hours. Usually, it is part of their schools graduation requirements to get into the community and do some good. Either way, I really enjoy it when they are working with us.
No, they aren't the most productive, and often they don't know how to operate a broom, but they are full of promise and their future is wide open. Quite often they have never volunteered before and have little experience in putting others ahead of themselves, but with us, they get to see the joy of being helpful, of lifting others up when they have fallen, and learning that compassion and empathy towards others is a good thing and that it feels good, deep down where no one else can see it. They learn that doing good is a good thing to do, that it is the right thing to do, and there is a huge need for people to do it.
I hope that in the short time that they are with us, there will be seeds planted, seeds that will blossom and bear fruit, not just now, but for generations to come.
Scott Johnston from the North Coast News interviewed me today to help celebrate reaching the amazing milestone of helping 5,000 people. As we were talking about where we came from, I got to thinking about where we want to go. What will North Beach Medical Equipment be doing five years from now? I would love to say that we will be out of business because nobody needed us, sadly, I don't think that will happen. I believe that in five years, we will be approaching 15,000 people helped. I hope that we will have financial support smoothed out so that we can focus on helping people and not worrying about paying the bills.
I think that our service area will have expanded and may even have offices in other locations. We will be able to help people with financial things like building a wheelchair ramp or getting that special piece of equipment so little Suzie can go to school with her friends. I think that we will have people with disabilities on staff here, doing what they can, working when they can, and bringing much needed income and self-esteem into their lives. I believe that we will be working on Do-It-Yourself prosthetic attachments and other tools to make people's lives better. We may even have our own building so that we are not at the whim of a landlord.
Looking back over the first five years, and how we have stumbled and strained yet still surpassed our wildest dreams, I know that the next five years will be simply amazing!
And to those folks that advised me to close up shop and get a job flipping burgers, there are several thousand people who would disagree.