Lyndonville loan closet needs a new overseer

Russ Martino stands in his barn with just a fraction of the medical equipment that has been donated to the Lyndonville Lions Medical Equipment Loan Closet.

LYNDONVILLE — The Lyndonville Lions Medical Equipment Loan Closet may be in danger of closing if suitable volunteers can’t be found to take it over.

Russ Martino isn’t exactly sure how many years ago he helped start the Loan Closet with fellow Lions members Jeff Johnson and the late Roger Wolf.

What he does know is it grew into a major project for himself and the Lyndonville Lions, a project that has helped hundreds of local residents in need of medical equipment.

When the Lions Club first started accepting donations of medical equipment, they had about 15 items, which were stored at Jeff Johnson’s farm. Martino said things were just dropped off and no records were ever kept of who borrowed equipment or where they lived. He stepped up to change that. 

Martino had a barn on his property and the items were moved there. Donations grew and grew to the point the loan closet was running out of room.

Martino’s parents lived next door to him and after they died, he thought about selling their home, but didn’t want strangers living so close to him. So, he said, “I decided to clean out the house and devote it to storing the medical equipment.”

Every room in the house was filled with items such as wheelchairs, crutches, hospital beds and commodes.

“We must have 18 to 20 hospital beds, 50 walkers and numerous wheelchairs, in addition to shower chairs, tub transfer benches, knee scooters, bed rails and more,” Martino said. 

The loan closet also holds an assortment of donated back braces.

Martino stressed how important the loan closet has been to hundreds of families, who have been able to borrow medical equipment in a time of need, at no cost. He said some people have insisted on making a donation, which went right to the Lions Club for its community projects. 

Recently, Martino, who is 78, realized overseeing the loan closet was getting to be too much. The Lions Club sponsors a Leo Club at Lyndonville High School, teenage students who work with the club on community projects. The Leos have agreed to take over managing the loan closet, and about a month ago, three pickups and a trailer took most of the equipment to the elementary school, where it is stored in a large area under the bleachers. 

Since then, the question arose as to who would accept phone calls from residents requesting to borrow a piece of equipment and it was suggested the Lyndonville Lions approach Medina Lions Club about taking over the loan closet as a community project.

At their latest meeting, Medina Lion Jim Hancock said the club formed an exploratory committee to look into the project. The biggest issue, he said, is finding suitable space to store all the equipment.

For now, the future of the Lyndonville Loan Closet is in limbo. One thing everyone agrees on is it is a needed community service, but one that's a big responsibility.

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