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REquipment and SMILEmass Partner for Hurricane Relief

By eanderson

September 12, 2017

Two women standing and smiling in front of a tent with wheelchairs and boxes of disposable adult diapers.
Karen Langley and Lotte Diomede at a Hurricane Harvey equipment drive last week.

Everyone who knows Lotte Diomede knows she is a force to be reckoned with. Lotte is the president and co-founder of SMILEmass, a non-profit that provides accessible equipment and recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. Last week, Lotte was contacted by a group in Houston working with families with children with significant disabilities impacted by Hurricane Harvey. She was asked to help recruit donations of pediatric supplies and durable medical equipment and she reached out to the REquipment Durable Medical Equipment Reuse Program for assistance. Lotte, whose own son is 17 and a wheelchair user, was committed to making this happen within one week.

REquipment had already been participating in daily conference calls with the national Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies and the Pass It On Center. The calls were set up to identify the best ways to provide DME, AT and other medical supplies to those negatively impacted by Hurricane Harvey. The day Lotte reached me, I was in the middle of working on potential partnerships with 6 small DME reuse programs and 20 Councils on Aging with loan closets in Massachusetts, as well as with the Connecticut Tech Act Project. The Partnership has urged us to organize our state-level reuse networks to determine what we have to donate and prepare for relief requests as the specific needs for equipment emerge.

Using her considerable charms and persuasive skills, Lotte found the resources to send two trucks to Houston with supplies on September 8th. It included a dozen pieces of pediatric DME, including 3 pediatric manual wheelchairs, a pediatric walker and an adapted stroller from our REquipment inventory. REquipment is now working to obtain membership with the MA VOAD (Volunteer Organizations Active In Disaster) so we can benefit from VOAD’s partnership with UPS for in-kind transport of equipment and supplies.

A woman leans over a wheelchair in a room full of DME
Stacey Collins, a REquipment reuse partner technician, prepares a pediatric wheelchair for donating to the Harvey relief effort

For SMILEmass and REquipment, this is just the beginning of our partnership; we will continue to work together as the needs of those affected by Hurricane’s Harvey and Irma are identified in the weeks and months to come.