Giving thousands the gifts they truly need

  • Wed Feb 7th, 2018 1:49pm
  • Life
Betsy Seidel of Hoquiam marks the 5,000th client at North Beach Medical Equipment on Pt. Brown Ave. NW

Betsy Seidel of Hoquiam marks the 5,000th client at North Beach Medical Equipment on Pt. Brown Ave. NW

By SCOTT D. JOHNSTON

North Beach Medical Equipment, the Grays Harbor non-profit that offers free medical equipment and supplies, celebrated a pair of milestones last week with their 5,000th client served and their fifth anniversary.

Ocean Shores residents Rich and Ashlee Lindquist operate out of a storefront in the Catala Mall, 889 Pt. Brown Ave. NW. They offer hundreds of products, from wheelchairs and walkers to briefs and pads, all of it free. Media coverage of their kindness and compassion has brought in clients from across the state.

On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Hoquiam resident Betsy Seidel became NBME’s 5,000th client after visiting well-known Ocean Shores resident and WWII hero Arnold Samuels.

“I had asked Rich and Ashlee to be guest speakers at a Grays Harbor Parkinson’s support group last year,” Seidel explained. “I was really impressed when he asked them what should he have in stock to help them. Isn’t that neat?

“So, when Arnold said he needed some help with his walker, I thought, ‘let me stop by North Beach Medical Equipment. While I was there, Rich said, ‘Hey how do you feel about having your picture taken as our 5,000th client?’” He pointed to the board that read, “# of people we have helped 4,999.”

What became NBME got going in February, 2013, when Rich went to the North Beach Senior Resource Center at Ocean Shores United Methodist Church, at 557 Pt. Brown Ave. NW, and said, “I’d like to volunteer; what do you need?” He started working to organize their “loan closet,” a collection of medical equipment available for free loan, but mostly needing repair.

“Once we started fixing the equipment and telling people what we were doing,” he recalled, “there were more people who wanted to help and more people who needed our help.

“We quickly outgrew the space at the church,” he said, and moved into a storage unit in 2014. “We were getting busy enough that I needed to raise money. I could no longer repair and maintain the equipment just using duct tape and bubble gum.”

In 2015 they became a registered, tax exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit, and moved into a small storefront next to the Men’s Room barber shop on Pt. Brown.

“We started to outgrow that space almost immediately,” he said, and in February, 2016, they moved to their present location a block south of the city gates.

Since then they’ve grown rapidly, serving around 2,100 clients each of the last two years, compared with about 200 per year in their first two years.

What they need help with now is fund raising. Rich works fulltime at NBME, but only takes a salary in the months when their cash flow is okay.

Almost all of their funding comes via donations from people they’ve helped. That means some months are pretty lean. In three years, NBME’s total payroll expenses have been just $38,000.

“We need some cheerleaders, some promoters, some marketing help,” he said, so he can concentrate on NBME’s twin peaks – an ever-growing mountain of equipment and a similarly growing list of folks who need their help.

To that end, they’ve added a new Facebook page, Friends of North Beach Medical Equipment, to go along with their old FB page, simply North Beach Medical Equipment, and their website, www.nbme.care.

One of the North Coast groups that supports NBME is the North Beach Eagles Aerie #4197, which is running a fund-raising event through Valentine’s Day. The group’s Worthy Secretary Lucy Bates said they are doing a silent auction that will be wrapped up at the February 14th dance at their home, 676 Ocean Shores Blvd. NW.

“We give them more money than any other organization in Ocean Shores,” Bates said. “They ‘ve helped a lot of our elderly members; people come from all over the state to get help, and, after all, the Eagles motto is ‘People Helping People.’”