South Denver metro 'equipment closet' loans medical supplies for free

Caretakers and those recovering can get wheelchairs, walkers and more


Debra Pontious, a 46-year-old who lives in Commerce City, has taken care of her grandfather, grandmother and mother-in-law, and now, she's looking after her own mother.

After a stroke, her mom lost use of her right side, and Pontious came to the South Metro Medical Equipment Loan Closet pick up a wheelchair — four days earlier, she borrowed a bed.

An experienced staff asked Pontious her mother's weight and height on July 3, searching for the right equipment.

“They had everything I needed,” said Pontious, who has seen the high cost of medical items elsewhere. She's used another service in the past.

“But it's hard to get a hold of them,” Pontious said of the service she used earlier. “These guys are really easy to get a hold of.”

Just off a bustling highway intersection, the South Metro Medical Equipment Loan Closet sits tucked behind a post office near the middle of Centennial. It's a discreet, industrial-looking location, but inside, volunteers offer a personal touch.

“It's helping people who are hurting or needing, and that's what I did all my life,” said Vicki Griffith, a retired occupational therapist who lives in southeast Aurora. “When I retired, that's what I was missing.”

Griffith, 68, is one of about 20 volunteers who help the nonprofit loan out items such as wheelchairs, shower benches, bedside commodes, and even hospital beds and pressure relief mattresses. The organization, located in Greenwood Village at 6825 S. Dallas Court, has grown to provide hundreds of pieces of equipment each year and fields several calls per day — but it started out of a 10-by-10 shed at a local church after founder Donna Ralston found inspiration.

“I have a history of mission trips,” said Ralston, a Centennial resident. “On a trip in Guatemala, (I learned) someone had started one of these in Kansas. The idea would not let me rest. After two years of thinking, I recruited a bunch of people, and that's how we got started.”

After three years running as of July, and one year of operating in its current location, the organization wants to keep growing. From July 2016 through June 2017, it loaned about 200 pieces of equipment to 126 people. In its second year, it loaded out more than 570 pieces to 277 people, according to a brochure.

“The need for volunteers is increasing due to the number of people we serve,” said Ralston, 72, who is a volunteer herself.

Some older organizations and churches offer medical items, Ralston said, but they aren't always as inclusive.

“I found if you aren't a veteran or a senior connected to a senior center, or go to a church, you don't have options,” Ralston said. “There really wasn't anything in the south metro area.”

About 70% of the organization's clients are older than 65, but some younger people call after ski accidents, for example, Griffith said.

And out of its humble roots, the loan closet has garnered community support: The Rotary Clubs of University Hills, Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock and the Denver Tech Center have pitched in financially, and a fifth one is considering doing so too, Ralston said. This year, the loan closet also received a grant from the Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners, Ralston added.

Her whole organization is made up of volunteers, and volunteers don't need to be retired, but Griffith said she finds a certain satisfaction in giving back in this time of her life.

“It seems like us retired people are here,” Griffith said, “to do something other than for ourselves.”

South Metro Medical Equipment Loan Closet, Greenwood Village, Donna Ralston, wheelchair borrow, injury, Ellis Arnold


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