Members of several Masonic lodges in Western Massachusetts are joining forces to start an innovative loan program that will assist persons in need of hospital equipment for their home.
The purpose of the Western Massachusetts Hospital Equipment Loan Program (HELP) is to lend at no cost health and hospital equipment to area residents. Recipients do not have to be a Mason to make a request.
“There are many people in our community that for whatever reason need some type of hospital equipment,” said Melvyn Hook, president and past master of Mount Moriah Lodge in Westfield, adding, “whether it is something they need to help themselves in everyday life, or to help a loved one, or to help them care for a loved one in their home.”
The equipment list is extensive and ranges from Hoyer lifts, electric hospital beds, electric lift chairs, and exercise bikes for rehabilitation purposes, to crutches, canes, electric scooters with chair, and transfer benches. Additionally, equipment that can be loaned includes mattresses, sides for beds, walkers, wheelchairs and cushions, commodes, strollers (transport chairs), whirlpool for foot or arm, over-the-bed tables, toilet seat extensions, floor pedal exercisers, tub rails, and gait belts.
“There are also many instances where insurance companies won’t pay for the equipment or will only pay a portion and the patient can’t afford the rest, so they go without,” said Hook, noting that donations from the public will also be welcomed.
Donations that cannot be accepted include anything broken or unclean, opened packages of supplies, medicines, blankets or fabric bed covers, nonelectric beds and electric wheelchairs.
Smaller items that will also be available include adult diapers, underbody mats, extended shoehorns, sock aides, grabbers, dressing sticks, sling trapeze and ice machines.
“We will also have access to equipment and donations made to other Masonic HELP programs in eastern Massachusetts as well as all other organizations in our Masonic family,” said Hook, adding, “We will only purchase what we absolutely have to.”
Hook said the idea for the program came to fruition after he learned a young man in the area had been diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and was hoping to have a handicap ramp built at his father’s house to use while the bathroom in his home was being refitted to accommodate his needs.
“I gathered some Mason Brothers and some friends from the community and raised some money and a couple of us built a ramp for him,” said Hook. “At the same time, I had another Mason Brother who needed a small ramp that we were also able to get for him.”
Hook said those two instances made him realize there might be others in the area who also needed assistance.
“I talked with R.W. Michael Nemeth, our district deputy grand master, and asked him for his help and support to make this a reality here in Western Massachusetts,” said Hook. “He was all for it.”
Hook noted that the Masonic HELP programs are supported by the organization’s Grand Lodge Service Committee.
After initial conversations with regional Masons from eastern Massachusetts on their programs, Hook spread the word among members of the 29th Masonic District. The district includes Mount Moriah Lodge and Mount Orthodox Lodge, 72 Broad St., Westfield; Esoteric Sherwood Lodge, 475 Pine St., Feeding Hills; and Elm Belcher Lodge, 45 River St., Agawam.
“Over the weeks that followed, I gathered a group of brethren to help me set up Western Massachusetts HELP at the Westfield Masonic building,” said Hook.
Masons working behind the scenes with Hook include Timothy Flouton, member and secretary at Mount Moriah Lodge; Donald Carberry, senior warden and treasurer at Mount Orthodox Lodge; Anthony Leroux, past district deputy grand master for the 29th District; Michael Nemeth, district deputy grand master for the 29th District; Neil Liptak, worshipful master of Mount Orthodox Lodge; Ian Lane, worshipful master of Mount Moriah Lodge; John Stone, worshipful master of Elm Belcher Lodge; and Edward Lavoie, worshipful master of Esoteric Sherwood Lodge.
“I also can’t forget Brother Patrick Lupien and Brother Santo Tomasine for all their help,” said Hook.
The Masons have set Sept. 18 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Westfield Masonic building for area residents to donate unwanted hospital equipment.
“The plan is to have a full grand opening on Oct. 9 from 9 to 12,” said Hook.
While logistics are still being finalized at press time, Hook said a phone line is being set up and a website is being created. In the interim, persons having questions may call Hook at 413-301-3293.
“We will only take appointments for hospital beds and Hoyer lifts,” said Hook. “All appointments will be set up for Saturday mornings from 9 to 12.”
Equipment that will be loaned will be sanitized and HELP organizers will remind participants to wipe down the equipment for their own protection.
“We do not deliver, for liability reasons and the possibility of damage that could be caused when delivering equipment to someone’s home,” he added. “When picking up a large piece of equipment, it must be made in a truck or other suitable transportation. We will not put a Hoyer lift or a bed in a car or SUV. There are no exceptions.”
Once the program is established, dropoff and pickup hours will be Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, to facilitate the scheduling of volunteers.