Free medical supplies outlet opens

<p>Board of Directors members Margie Shaw (left) and Linda Eytchison (foreground) flank Lending Heart Community Resources' Director Vikki Knifong in one of many of the organization's equipment-filled rooms in Wallowa.</p>

There’s an air of magic, or maybe inspired wonder surrounding Lending Heart Community Resources, the nonprofit that recently opened doors in the former Winding Waters Clinic office, in Wallowa.

Staffed entirely by volunteers, the well-organized legal entity is lending free medical equipment of many varieties to anyone in need, no matter where they live; even Hood River and Keiser, near Salem.

And there are no strings attached.

Linda Bauck, one of a seven-member board of directors representing all of Wallowa County, says, “Everything is for free and there are no time length restrictions. Equipment just goes out the door for free and they can keep it as long as they need it.”

The key organizer for the operation is Vikki Knifong, the new mayor of Wallowa, unpaid director of Lending Heart Community Resources, and a member of its board of directors.

At this point in time, Knifong is more concerned about sharing plaudits with Enterprise-based Winding Waters Clinic that donated its former Wallowa office to Lending Heart than talking about what the new entity can provide for Wallowa County.

And there’s a good reason for her focus.

A printed brochure circulated by Lending Heart says that for nearly 10 years before the new nonprofit officially began operations around June 2012 that an unstructured, free sharing of medical equipment took place in the city of Wallowa where multiple sheds were used to store excess medical supplies.

The brochure says in part, “Almost everyone knew where to drop items off and where to pick them up. It worked, but it was just by word of mouth. The need in our community was here and we held on until …Winding Waters donated its building.”

The volume of supplies stored in the new storefront at 203 E. First Street, on the north side of Highway 82 across from the empty Shell Mercantile building to the south, is surprisingly large. And yet Knifong says about one-half of the nonprofit’s supplies already are loaned out.

The volume and variety of rent-free medical supplies shared at Lending Heart compares favorably with inventories stocked in for-pay medical rental/retail shops elsewhere.

Those supplies include, but are not limited to wheelchairs, walkers, canes, crutches, hospital beds, shower seats, blanket lifts, hospital tables, baby monitors, and pads for hospital beds.

Donations to stock the shelves and floor space in the many-roomed Lending Heart building come from many sources, both from inside and outside Wallowa County. Knifong speaks of one individual who pulled up in a stock trailer and unloaded volumes of gift medical supplies for the use of anyone in need.

Not content to leave the majority of Lending Heart’s beneficial opportunities in the corner of Wallowa County, Knifong says a Lending Heart outlet in Enterprise has been found, as well. Storage of medical supplies in Enterprise will be in the basement of the old hospital. Volunteers already are being found to check supplies in and out of that site, but initial contact still must go through Knifong and the storefront in Wallowa.

Aware of the importance of developing a countywide base of support for a project initiated as a potential food bank for the Wallowa area, Knifong has formed a strong supporting cast.

Directors include Enterprise Mayor Margie Shaw; Knifong; Bauck; Linda Eytchison, of Joseph; Noma McDaniel, of Lostine; Susan Gilstrap, of Enterprise; and Debra Reth, of Wallowa.

The board meets monthly at alternating sites, either Cloud 9 Bakery in Enterprise or Lending Heart in Wallowa. Meetings begin at noon on the second Monday of the month and are open to the public.

Accounts have been set up at all Community Bank branches in Wallowa County to receive financial contributions.

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