The Lending Shed, which started out as a little community project in Patagonia, has grown to help people across multiple counties.

Since its inception nearly five years ago, the nonprofit provider of free, durable medical equipment now serves clients throughout Santa Cruz and Cochise counties.

Sponsored by Family Healthcare Amigos (FHAmigos) based out of Patagonia, The Lending Shed loans medical equipment such as walkers, toilet risers, canes, crutches, hospital beds and much more to disabled and elderly populations. The equipment, which is donated to the nonprofit after it is no longer needed, is cleaned and then loaned to other residents.

FHAmigos board president Linda Huffstetler-Dearing started The Lending Shed after identifying a need for equipment among elderly and disabled populations.

“Family Healthcare Amigos got its start in 1976, and The Lending Shed project was created in 2015,” she said. “The first year, we had clients in Patagonia only. Last year, we served 250 clients in Cochise and Santa Cruz counties and we continue to grow.”

When Huffstetler-Dearing first started The Lending Shed, it operated out of a tiny 8-by-10-foot shed behind Patagonia’s senior center. They now operate out of a larger shed in a temporary location behind FHAmigos at 325 W. McKeown Ave. in downtown Patagonia, with big plans for future expansion.

“A local family gave Amigos a generous donation, allowing us to purchase a building in Patagonia which will house all of our services,” Huffstetler-Daring said. “We are in the process of collecting donations and grant money to rehabilitate the building and bring it up to commercial code.”

Upon completion of the building’s rehabilitation, plans are to launch a furniture and art thrift shop, with the money used to provide the nonprofit with a revenue stream, thereby eliminating the need for ever dwindling grant money, Huffstetler-Dearing said.

“So, we’re going through a transition,” she said. “We were in a storefront for a few years, but when we were able to buy the building, we went back to being in a shed until the building is habitable. Our dream is to create a high-end furniture thrift store. Even though it’s still in its visionary stage, we’ve named or new venture The Purple Elephant Thrift Shoppe.”

With an all-volunteer board, FHAmigo has no paid staff and all services are provided free of charge.

Along with durable medical equipment, The Lending Shed staff also identified an urgent need for incontinence supplies for elderly and disabled clients.

“Because of the high cost for a month’s supply of adult diapers, elderly people on limited incomes cannot afford them, so they go without,” Huffstetler-Dearing said. “They start using towels and sheets, and as a consequence, suffer from a higher incidence of urinary tract and yeast infections. We started out by providing adult diapers to one wheelchair bound client.”

Since then, the demand for incontinence supplies climbed, causing The Lending Shed to partner with the Diaper Bank of Southern Arizona out of Tucson.

“Last year, we provided incontinence supplies to 28 families from both Santa Cruz and Cochise counties,” said Huffstetler-Dearing, who noted that the average cost for a month’s supply of incontinence products can soar to between $300 and $400.

“When you have people living on $1,000 a month, this cost is a huge financial hit,” she added. “They simply can’t afford it.”

Through a needs-assessment survey compiled by SEAGO (SouthEast Arizona Governments Organization) Area Agency on Aging, Huffstetler-Dearing said durable medical equipment is always in the top five requests. Incontinence products are typically in the top 20.

SEAGO produces the survey-driven needs assessment every two years, and the results are fairly consistent Huffstetler-Dearing said.

For the convenience of residents in Cochise County, Huffstetler-Dearing will be at the Huachuca City Library the first Wednesday of every month at 11 a.m. to assist new clients in signing out durable medical equipment and arranging for incontinence products.

As items are borrowed, The Lending Shed inventory sometimes changes from day to day, but every effort is made to help clients get needed equipment.

“If you are a nonprofit organization in Cochise County, please call me,” Huffstelter-Dearing said. “The Lending Shed also provides durable medical equipment free to other nonprofits.”

They will deliver the equipment to the nonprofit’s location for use with their clients.

“If you know someone who needs the services we provide, please do not hesitate to call us. We are here to serve people in need.”

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