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Closure of Gander Red Cross depot a shock for volunteers

The Red Cross has been operating out of its depot on Roe Avenue in Gander for 15 years.  Pictured is long time volunteer Jean Dillon.
The Red Cross has been operating out of its depot on Roe Avenue in Gander for 15 years. Pictured is long time volunteer Jean Dillon.

Red Cross volunteers in Gander were shocked on Tuesday when they learned — at a meeting called by officials from St. John’s and Grand Falls-Windsor — that the local depot and meeting centre would be closed at the end of March.

“It’s a big step backwards for Gander,” said Jean Dillon, a long-time Red Cross volunteer.

The Gander Red Cross has been operating a healthcare equipment loan program out of the depot on Roe Avenue for 15 years. It’s also used for first aid training and storing emergency supplies for disaster relief.

The healthcare equipment will be moved to Grand Falls-Windsor.

“We have six orthopedic specialists here. We have a lot of people leaving the Gander hospital needing the health equipment,” Dillon said. “That’s why it is so important to have it here.”

The Red Cross depot supplies people throughout the area with medical health equipment. Pictured is volunteer Jean Dillon.

The healthcare equipment includes bariatric wheelchairs, tub transfer benches, raised toilet seats, walkers and other assistive devices.

“It won’t be as convenient for our clients,” Dillon said. 

She cites the example of someone from out-of-town getting discharged from hospital after surgery, then possibly having to come back to Gander to pick up equipment at a later date after it’s been delivered.

The Gander centre loans equipment free of charge to people from Eastport to Lewisporte, including communities around the loop from Gambo to Gander Bay. 

“We have a beautiful spot up there,” she said. “It was like heaven. We had space to clean and work. For years we worked from a storage shed that was on Roe Avenue, then we were down in what is now the school board office dragging equipment up and down the stairs.”

Volunteers run the depot making appointments for people to pick up equipment and look after cleaning and sanitizing returned equipment. 

Dillon says the facility rental is $800 dollars a month, including light and heat —practically a “gift” for a space that includes rooms for equipment storage and cleaning, a disaster services area, an office and a meeting/training space.   

However, at Tuesday’s meeting they were told that the cost was too high. 

She adds that she can’t see closing the facility will mean a huge saving, especially when you factor in finding a new storage space and paying for deliveries from Grand Falls-Windsor.

Much of the Gander equipment was purchased by donations from the Gander Consumers Co-op 50/50 Fund.  The office equipment was also donated by Gander businesses. 

The Gander centre is also used as a meeting space/headquarters in emergency situations.  

“When the wildfires were on in Fort McMurray we interviewed 75 families when they came home to get their disaster services for food, lodging and that kind of stuff,” Dillon said. 

They also have kits on hand and teams on call for helping people who’ve had house fires or other emergencies.

The Gander Red Cross branch is very active, with around 20 to 25 volunteers available. 

TC Media is awaiting a response from the provincial office of the Red Cross.

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