Bill Noble, project lead for Lyn’s Medical Loan Closet, holds a pair of crutches while Margie Martin, a fellow committee member who helped organize the facility, displays a walker. Such items will be provided there free to those unable to pay.

This sign on a basement door at L.H. Jones Family Resource Center in Mount Airy guides the way to the loan closet for durable medical equipment.

It makes an already bad situation worse: someone falls on the ice and breaks a leg, for example, and suddenly is in need of crutches or a wheelchair that might be unaffordable.

Well, thanks to a new effort in Surry County for which a grand opening is scheduled Tuesday, there’s now a place where such folks can turn for durable medical equipment free of charge.

Lyn’s Medical Loan Closet will offer items including walkers, canes, crutches, shower chairs, hospital beds, wheelchairs, commode implements, tub transfer benches and others to recipients who after a fall or illness also can find themselves falling through the cracks.

The storehouse of medical equipment, located on the grounds of L.H. Jones Family Resource Center in Mount Airy, is named for the Rev. Lyn Stabler-Tibbett, a priest who is the former rector of Trinity Episcopal Church.

“She got the ball rolling on this,” explained Gloria Lawrence, a longtime local educator serving on a church committee that has been working to make the medical equipment loan closet a reality. It is affiliated with Surry Medical Ministries, an organization that provides free medical care to the uninsured.

“We’re aiming to serve those who are not old enough for Medicare,” Lawrence added regarding the loan closet’s similar target group, “or poor enough for Medicaid.”

Both those governmental insurance programs pay for such equipment, as does private coverage.

“But there’s a group of people who fall through the cracks in between those other two groups,” Lawrence said.

“This (the loan closet) will be a good service for those in the community who cannot afford private insurance who also cannot qualify for those two programs.”

“It’s a real need in Surry County,” Bristol Mitchem, the on-site manager for the loan closet, said Thursday while readying the facility filled with supplies for its grand opening to the public Tuesday at 11 a.m. It will operate on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., with no appointments necessary.

Organizers say arrangements can be made for someone seeking equipment on other days to meet a volunteer there and receive items.

Volunteers have been professionally trained to assist clients and fit them with the proper equipment.

“We would expect them to return them in 90 days,” Lawrence said of patients bringing back loaned items within that period. But if equipment is needed longer, it can be renewed simply by completing extra paperwork.

Finishing Lyn’s Mission

The Rev. Bob Cathers, a former priest of Trinity Episcopal Church, now retired, contacted members there about the idea of starting the local closet ministry, which is housed in a basement area of Jones Resource Center on Jones School Road.

Lyn Stabler-Tibbett launched the project. She gained vestry approval for it and wrote an application to secure grant funding from the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina for the non-profit facility, which also has been supported by donations from others.

The medical loan closet is patterned after a facility in Hendersonville headed by St. James Episcopal Church there. That operation is credited with supplying the majority of the inventory for the local one, sharing its plan of organization and assisting in other ways.

If there is a downside to the story of Lyn’s Medical Loan Closet, it surrounds the fact that the project’s chief facilitator has had to divert her attentions elsewhere as its development reached the final stages toward Tuesday’s grand opening.

Stabler-Tibbett was forced to retire early from her post as rector of Trinity Episcopal Church due to being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. After the illness surfaced, members of the church committee rose to the occasion to help the project achieve fruition.

“Bill Noble took the lead when she started having chemotherapy,” Lawrence said of Stabler-Tibbett.

The church decided to name the medical loan closet after Stabler-Tibbett due to the instrumental role she played in the project, and plans call for her to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Tuesday’s grand opening.

“We’re really excited about it,” Lawrence said.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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