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Volunteers keep busy Penticton Red Cross Health Equipment Loan Program going

‘Vital service’ sees over 4,000 pieces of medical equipment loaned out of Penticton location
Canadian Red Cross volunteers keep the Health Equipment Loan Program going in Penticton. (Monique Tamminga Western News)

This is National Volunteer Week (April 16 to 22). National Volunteer Week is an opportunity to recognize the impact volunteers have to build stronger communities and be a force that transforms the world. The Western News chose to highlight the amazing volunteers at the Red Cross HELP (Health Equipment Loan Program)

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the breezeway in the 500 block of Main Street in Penticton becomes a busy place with people picking up health equipment like crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, commodes and shower chairs from the Canadian Red Cross.

A line up of vehicles can be seen on those days from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with Red Cross volunteers bringing out equipment to people’s cars.

The Red Cross operation is called HELP (Health Equipment Loan Program) and is a volunteer-driven, community-based program that provides free, short-term loans of essential medical equipment that allows people to safely recover at home after being in hospital or having an injury.

Those who experience a sudden illness or accident are often left stunned by how quickly their lives have changed. A car accident, a sudden slip in the snow, or recovering from knee surgery can leave a person helpless in a home built for the able-bodied.

That’s where the Red Cross comes in. HELP is there to provide that much needed equipment free of charge. In fact, close to 4,000 pieces of health of equipment were loaned at the Penticton location in 2022.

That’s where Penticton Red Cross volunteers like Dara Murphy and Lynn Napper come in. Murphy co-leads the Penticton operations with Napper. Both have been volunteering together at Red Cross since 2009.

“This vital service doesn’t exist without the volunteers to help them,” said Kari Purvis, coordinator of HELP.

“We are so lucky to have such an amazing group of volunteers in Penticton,” she added.

But more volunteers are needed.

The 11 or so core volunteers are kept very busy inputting requisitions into the computer, adjusting and storing equipment for their 4.5 hour shifts.

Some volunteers are double shifting, said Murphy.

It’s such an important service but you don’t realize just how important it is until you need it, said Murphy.

The equipment loan is usually for three to six months at no cost but they do ask for a donation of cash and/or equipment.

“Donations is how we survive,” said Murphy. “Some people are very generous in this community.”

The Canadian Red Cross health equipment loan centre is located at #104a-575 Main Street. It serves Penticton and Summerland.

Four hours a week can make a world of difference to someone in your community. Contact the Penticton Canadian Red Cross office at 250-493-7533 and ask for Lynne or Dara for more information on how to become a volunteer. Full training and support is provided.

READ MORE: Penticton Red Cross moves to downtown Main Street


What sets Penticton apart is the amount of people willing to give back to the community by volunteering.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Volunteer Centre wants to say thank you to all those volunteers by hosting a pancake breakfast and all the trimmings with help from Total Restoration at Gyro Park on Saturday, April 22 from 8 to 11 a.m.

READ MORE: Volunteer Week ends with Thank Your Breakfast

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Monique Tamminga

About the Author: Monique Tamminga

Monique brings 20 years of award-winning journalism experience to the role of editor at the Penticton Western News. Of those years, 17 were spent working as a senior reporter and acting editor with the Langley Advance Times.
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