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Home News News Archives 2011 Archive FREE Foundation Launches New South Hampton Roads Chapter to Distribute Durable Medical Equipment

FREE Foundation Launches New South Hampton Roads Chapter to Distribute Durable Medical Equipment 

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Used walkers, wheelchairs, other aids to be collected, refurbished, recycled and gifted to patients who cannot afford them

Norfolk, VA  (February 3, 2011) – They clutter attics, closets and garages and are often practically new.  Thousands of gently used walkers, wheelchairs, shower seats, power chairs, lift chairs and other durable medical equipment (DME) could be helping uninsured and underinsured people in the area avoid falls and injuries and lower healthcare costs.

The Roanoke-based FREE Foundation is setting up a new chapter in South Hampton Roads to collect, refurbish and recycle DME for those in need.  The new chapter has received support from Goodwill of Central Virginia, which will receive donations at its area stores and donation centers, and Sentara Healthcare, which has helped find volunteers to launch the chapter.

“We started to collect these devices ourselves, but it’s too big a job to do alone,” says Valeria Mitchell, RN, trauma program manager at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and president of FREE of South Hampton Roads.  “The FREE Foundation offers the structure and experience to distribute these devices to those in need in the entire community.”

Two local grants help launch program in Hampton Roads

The Hampton Roads Community Foundation provided FREE with a grant of $45,000 over three years to help launch the program locally. The Sentara Health Foundation provided a $10,000 grant.

The FREE Foundation provided the new chapter with a HUBSCRUB™ cleaning and infection control system for DME, using a grant from The Commonwealth Neurotrauma Initiative Trust Fund and support from the Virginia Department of Rehabilitative Services and the Virginia Assistive Technology Service.

 Donated space, more volunteers needed for startup

“All we need now is donated space to repair and store the equipment to make it happen,” says Sonja Schaible, executive director of the FREE Foundation.  “We need about 1,200 square feet with a water supply and a drain to operate the HUBSCRUB and to repair and store donated equipment.”

FREE relies on volunteer workers to repair and refurbish the devices and help with inventory and distribution.  A volunteer advisory board provides oversight.

 “We have a core team of leaders and other volunteers already hard at work and we are seeking more volunteers from throughout the community to help those in need regain their mobility and independence,” says Mitchell.         

“This program provides great value,” adds Schaible.  “It provides independence to those who receive the equipment, it saves healthcare system costs by dramatically reducing falls and injuries and it recycles used equipment instead of letting it sit around.  Everybody wins with FREE.”

In 2011, FREE chapters in Virginia expect to distribute more than 1,000 pieces of equipment and save the communities served by FREE an estimated $7 million in healthcare costs.

 “With the support of the community and the FREE Foundation, we will be able to recruit and train an effective group of local volunteers,” says Mitchell.  “We want every adult in the area who can’t afford these devices to be able to get them.”

 Related Links:
FREE Foundation of South Hampton Roads
Goodwill of Central Virginia
Hampton Roads Community Foundation

For general information on FREE or for interviews with Sonja Schaible, executive director of FREE, call (540) 777-4929.

For more health information and the latest press release, go to the Sentara news page on

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