Leader of Lyndonville medical equipment closet passes torch

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 17 August 2020 at 9:37 pm

Russ Martino and Lyndonville Lions looking for long-term solution to overseeing the service

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Russ Martino stands in his barn with just a fraction of the medical equipment which has been donated to Lyndonville Lions Medical Equipment Loan Closet.

LYNDONVILLE – Russ Martino isn’t exactly sure how many years ago he helped start the Lyndonville Medical Equipment Loan Closet with fellow Lions members Jeff Johnson and Roger Wolfe.

Russ Martino of Lyndonville gets a phone call nearly every day for someone in need of a piece of medical equipment. He was instrumental in starting the Lyndonville Lions’ medical equipment loan closet several years ago. He recently announced he could no longer keep it up and has turned it over to a group of high school students and potential Lions members, called Leos.

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

When the Lions 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 it or where they lived. He stepped up to change that.

He had a barn on his property and the items were moved there. Donations grew and grew to the point they were 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.

“I decided to clean out the house and devote it to storing the medical equipment,” Martino said.

Every room in the home is still filled with items, such as wheelchairs, crutches, hospital beds, commodes and more.

“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.

They also have an assortment of back braces, which have been donated.

Russ Martino, who helped start the Lyndonville Lions Medical Equipment Loan Closet, shows some of the medical equipment they have to loan out, including commodes, walkers, wheelchairs, hospital beds and crutches.

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

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 to see if they would be interested in taking over the loan closet as a community project.

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

So 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 which is a big responsibility.

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