MEDFORD — Moved by a story about a homeless woman unable to be discharged from the hospital for lack of a suitable wheelchair, Medford mother Rachael Chadic saw a need she wanted to help fill.
A longtime caregiver with a passion for helping her community, Chadic said medical equipment taking up space in garages and closets was an obvious match for the long list of community members in need. No-longer-needed wheelchairs and shower chairs stowed away in garages and attics could easily find homes with low-income or homeless community members if someone could figure out a way to collect and distribute such items.
Chadic stepped in with her newly dubbed “Helping Hands” by early winter.
“I saw a post one day on Facebook where there was a homeless family and a mom couldn’t get out of the hospital unless she had a wheelchair with foot pedals,” Chadic said recently.
“I’m an in-home care giver — I work for an agency and I work for state — so I know how important it is for people to have the equipment that they need. And I know that, a lot of times, people have stuff sitting around and they don’t know what to do with it.”
Eager to help her community, Chadic said she’s a big fan of homeless outreach efforts by local entities including Compassion Highway Project so she sought guidance to ensure she didn’t duplicate existing efforts.
“I don’t have a lot of time and I usually can’t go down and volunteer for the feeds, but I got to thinking, I had a storage shed,” she said.
Within days of deciding to collect usable items, Chadic had Medford residents Amanda Thompson and Maria Jones on board, her husband Allen figuring out storage solutions for donated equipment and offers for usable medical equipment trickling in.
With the help of a Facebook page and some good community leads and two more donated storage sheds, Helping Hands was ready to accumulate needed crutches, wheelchairs, diabetic supplies (no insulin) and other gear.
Chadic said the need and appreciation from community members was instant. A close friend who was homeless and a recent amputee learned of Chadic’s project at the same time he finally found housing.
Chadic said, “I was telling him about what I was doing and he said, ‘If you have an extra, I could really use a walker. I can’t get my wheelchair around this new place. I said, ‘Hold on just a second.’ I went over to the truck and came back with a walker. He had the biggest smile on his face.”
Chadic is quick to point out she’s not in competition with existing agencies but says her hope is to keep items out of landfills — existing agencies are unable to offer pickup service in most cases and aren’t as likely to accept items in need of small repairs — and provide them at no cost.
Thompson said she was excited to see Chadic launch the effort.
“Medical supplies will always be necessary for those who need them. A lot of times when loved ones pass on the families are left with supplies that they may not know what to do with,” said Thompson.
“Useful medical equipment may end up at the dump instead of in the hands of someone who can use them.”
Further proving the level of need, Jones found herself being both a volunteer and recipient of Chadic’s helpful idea.
Davis said existing agencies have time limits on loaning out gear and obtaining items permanently is too costly.
“I have Parkinson’s disease. I was having a hard time stepping over the bathtub edge,” she said. “I’m not poor, but I’m not rich either. God bless Rachael for thinking to do this, for thinking outside herself. I think she’s going to help a lot of people.”
Mayne said Chadic’s effort will meld nicely with existing outreach.
“This is a huge deal because, at the feeds, we come across so many elderly that have nothing. Other places will run out of wheelchairs or walkers. It’s just nice to have someone who can be right there, or have volunteers right there, with a small supply,” Mayne said.
“A lot of people maybe have OHP but some things are just not covered. There’s a huge gap with medical resources here for people and not everyone knows how or feels comfortable reaching out for help. It feels good, when we see them struggling, to be able to let them know the help is there without them having to necessarily ask.”
Mayne, “No one should go without a wheelchair or something needed for their health. I’m excited for Rachael. She has a passion and she’s really filling an important need.”
Find the Facebook page here. Email Chadic at email@example.com. Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.