By Angela Hill, Canadian Red Cross

Whether ensuring people are getting the equipment they need, or washing and maintaining returned equipment, the Red Cross Health Equipment Loan Program (HELP) relies on its volunteers.

“There is certainly a need for it,” said Bea Smith, who works on the customer service side in the Kamloops HELP depot. “People are very, very appreciative, especially the older folks and those with more chronic issues.”

The program provides service to almost 100,000 people each year from more than 70 locations across B.C. and Yukon. The volunteers lend health equipment – anything from canes, crutches and walkers to hospital beds and patient lifts – on a short-term, by-donation basis to assist people coping with illness and injury.
Don Fehr, a Canadian Red Cross volunteer in our HELP program

Don Fehr, a Canadian Red Cross volunteer in Kamloops, supporting our HELP program. Photo: Marko Kokic/Canadian Red Cross


Wilma Swain has been volunteering with the program since 2000. She first learned about the HELP when her late husband was ill and they needed equipment.

A few years later an opportunity came up to give back.

“I saw an ad in the paper that they needed volunteers,” said Wilma, who is now a team lead at the Maple Ridge depot, sometimes volunteering five days a week. “When I saw the ad, I thought, well they were there when I needed them so maybe I can do something.”

Many of the HELP volunteers start that way, hoping to give back, and they have stayed because they have found a team.

Marguerite Blackstock, a Canadian Red Cross volunteer“It’s fun. The people that work here, they’re just fun to be around,” said Marguerite Blackstock, pictured right.

The 82-year-old works from 9:30 to 4:30 on Fridays, cleaning returned equipment. She scrubs wheelchairs, loads crutches into a giant washing machine and gets them back on to the shelf to help new people in need.

Marguerite works alongside Don Fehr in Kamloops.

“I like helping people out,” he said.

Fehr checks and repairs returned equipment, getting it ready to be used again.

HELP clients rely on volunteers and the Red Cross is looking to grow its team in locations throughout BC - find more information.

Learn more about volunteering with the Canadian Red Cross: redcross.ca/volunteer.