Helping People Regain Mobility and Remain Independent

Front and center: Ms. Easter Worlds From left to right: Sean Robinson PM/FF, Chesapeake FD Debbie Menadier, F.R.E.E. Foundation of SHR Emily Giordano, Occupational Therapist, Kindred at Home Healthcare Kip Reid EMT/FF, Chesapeake FD

Debbie Menadier joined the Foundation for Rehabilitation Equipment and Endowment just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The statewide nonprofit lost its local program space when a supporter had to make cutbacks. Menadier, F.R.E.E.’s program assistant and lone paid staff member in South Hampton Roads, soon found herself working from home.

“My other office is a storage unit,” said Menadier. F.R.E.E. was using the unit temporarily so it could continue to provide medical equipment and assistive devices to people who cannot afford them.

F.R.E.E. collects donated equipment, such as crutches, walkers, wheelchairs, and shower chairs to help people regain mobility and remain independent.

In late 2019, F.R.E.E. of South Hampton Roads received $14,000 from the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. During that time, it served 312 individuals and families. Of those, 104 clients reported that without equipment provided by F.R.E.E., they would have had to move in with family members or into facilities.

During the pandemic, F.R.E.E. adapted to continue providing services. It now does community outreach via phone, video chats, and emails. This has increased its ability to work closely with other organizations to meet client needs. For example, Menadier has cultivated a relationship with Chesapeake Emergency Services. When paramedics go into a home and note that someone needs medical equipment, they contact F.R.E.E. In one case discovered by EMS staff, F.R.E.E. gave a Hoyer Lift to help a client get in and out of bed and also connected the client with a hospital bed so they could stay home rather than go into a care facility.

“It’s all about the patients, all about their need and trying to help them and working with their families,” Debbie Menadier

Menadier also understands firsthand what F.R.E.E.’s services mean to families. Her mother received a lift chair from F.R.E.E. when she was sick.

“I can’t imagine what she would have done without it,” Menadier said.

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