Keeping People Moving Through Difficult Transitions: ReCares Goes the Distance
Every Friday afternoon, a queue stretches its way up the church parking ramp and onto 27th Street – it consists of a diverse group that includes all ages, races, and walks-of-life. They have one thing in common: they are all currently, or recently struggling with a family member’s transition to mobility impairment or hospice, and they are waiting for ReCares to open its doors at 1 pm.
ReCares, one of First Church’s many Community Partners, repairs and distributes wheel chairs, walkers, crutches and other mobility aids to the community for free. They also take donations of new and used equipment, as well as home health supplies related to mobility impairment and home-care.
Every Friday, from 1 – 4 pm, volunteers carefully help the public select equipment. Dimitrius Brooks is there to help them. Dimitrius is ReCares newest Site Manager, responsible for ReCares operations at First Church (ReCares also has facilities in Marin and San Francisco). “My job is to understand what people need, and to help them,” he said, gesturing to three large storage rooms in the church parking garage where ReCares stores its equipment. “It feels good when I can help someone.”
Liisa Nenonen started ReCares in 1996 with a slightly different intention than helping the public. “I was an operating nurse,” she said. “And I noticed that operating rooms had a tremendous amount of waste, so I started collecting usable equipment and finding uses for it. Over time, I expanded to home-care items and mobility aids, and eventually opened three sites for collecting and distributing. There is a great need for this.”
ReCares recently expanded their First Church footprint, thanks to a clean-up effort in the basement. “The parking garage store room was so full of stuff, you couldn’t open the door,” said Interim Facility Manager Chris Weber. “We were storing left-over parts from old construction projects, old odds and ends. By clearing the room of that old junk, we were able to provide space for ReCares to increase their capacity by 50 percent.”
“Some people who come here have just experienced a death in the family, and they can be pretty eager to let go of the equipment that reminds them of hospice,” she said. “Others are dealing with a transition in life where they, or family members, have recently lost mobility or need special care at home. These transitions can be hard to navigate, especially with medical costs.” ReCares provides all used equipment for free.
In addition to its three project sites, Liisa mentions another recent expansion, “We have recently partnered with an organization called Joni And Friends that takes some of our equipment in need of repair, damaged wheelchairs for instance, to a local prison where it is refurbished and sent overseas for use,” she said.
“We serve about eighty people every Friday now,” said Liisa of the expanded capacity. “Now we need a few more volunteers,” she added. “Volunteers can either work directly with our public, which usually involves a lot of listening and willingness to be helpful, or they can help with storage and organization – finding what’s needed. It’s all about meeting the needs of the community.”
Interested in volunteering or finding out more about this work? Contact Lisa at email@example.com