Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Featured photo: HERO donor Sue Helton (L) and Executive Director Maren Gemar (R)
With help from the Impact Foundation, we’ve broken up the numerous Fargo-Moorhead organizations into 12 categories. With more than 100 charitable organizations in the Fargo-Moorhead area alone, we know that you’ll come across an organization that tug at your heartstrings. Within the listings of local charities we’ve published, the organizations are split into subcategories that will make it easy for your charitable spirit to find its match. Here is our spotlight on the Health & Wellness nonprofits, featuring HERO.
HERO (Healthcare Equipment Recycling Organization)
5012 53rd St. S., Fargo
When Sue Helton’s husband Jim passed this October, many difficult decisions had to be made. How would she honor his memory? What would she do with all of his medical equipment they had amassed over the years? In lieu of flowers, Sue wanted to honor her late husband by continuing his legacy of improving the lives of those with physical disabilities. “It was automatic, it clicked that in lieu of flowers, HERO would be his memorial,” Sue said.
In his life, Jim had used products and services from HERO: Healthcare Equipment Recycling Organization, an organization that redistributes medical supplies and equipment both nationally and internationally. Confined to bed for 16 years, Jim was in need of certain medicines and wound care supplies that were hard to come by in terms of affordability and access. With HERO‘s help, she was able to get her husband a variety of sanitized, quality supplies that he needed.
Open to all, HERO offers low-cost medical equipment and supplies such as walkers, wheelchairs, shower chairs, hospital beds, wound care supplies and more. From their retail store in south Fargo, HERO serves all age demographics and income levels, even offering waived fees for those with financial hardship. Whether you need large, high-cost items or small basic materials, HERO shelves all things medical that you might need, no matter your financial standing. Communications coordinator Bridget Ertlet said, “The great thing about shopping here is that you know that the dollars that you’re spending at HERO are helping to support our mission. It helps us continue our program; it helps us keep our doors open. Even shopping for little incidentals, like band-aids, can really make a big difference.” Besides donations, HERO‘s second largest revenue source is their retail store.
On top of the medical bills and appointments that come with a health ailment, finding the right equipment can be time consuming and expensive. Sue expressed that it was like a treasure hunt because you can sometimes come across medical equipment at yard sales or estate sales. HERO‘s new executive director Maren Gemar said, “A lot of times when people don’t need certain equipment anymore, they just don’t know what to do with it, so it might end up being sold at a yard sale.”
Instead of sending off your used medical equipment to a landfill or a secondhand store, consider passing it along to HERO so that they can help families like Sue’s. Hoping for a stroke of luck to come across the specific item you need secondhand is a gamble that many don’t have the time or patience for. To ease the process for people looking for equipment at a reasonable cost, HERO‘s store provides all they would need.
At first glance, the thought of used medical equipment might not sound appealing to many. However, the used supplies that are donated to HERO are put through a detailed cleaning process. Maren said, “I think sometimes people are nervous when they’re purchasing something that’s been donated. But at HERO, they know that what they’re purchasing is safe, that we’re confident that we have all the precautions in place that we need to. The last thing you want to do is try to help somebody but make it worse.” Bridget also noted that they are in the process of being very close to being able to purchase a new medical equipment washer that will streamline this process even more.
Not only are HERO‘s services important locally, but globally and environmentally as well. In addition to local services, they also equip medical mission teams with life-changing supplies to assist individuals and families all over the world, including work with the Haiti Medical Mission. As far as environmental responsibility, their program of recycling through distribution helps save thousands of pounds of reusable medical material. Last year alone, they saved 95 tons of medical equipment and supplies from local landfills.
“We served over 5,000 individuals in 2017, and the numbers just keep growing. We’ve seen a 20 percent increase in the last three years, proving that health care needs continue to grow,” said Bridget. “I think it’s such a valuable resource to our community because of the affordable cost and the immediate access. We want to eliminate all the cumbersome paperwork and allow people to come in, get what they need and go home so they can live life a little bit more comfortably.”
When deciding how to remember Jim, Sue thought about all the organizations across the country that benefit from donations, but she wanted to focus her aid. She thought back on how HERO allowed her husband to live more comfortably, and she wanted to pass along the positive impact HERO had on her family. “I figured that with a smaller organization, it makes a bigger difference. Even though it’s maybe not a lot, it’s something,” she said.
Sue encourages people to give. “It might be in lieu of flowers in the obituary like we had. There are many ways that people give memorials. [Giving to HERO] is one that might not be as visible, but it’s a gift that gives back.”
From Communications Coordinator Bridget Ertelt and Executive Director Maren Gemar
Giving Hearts Day‘s Impact
Giving Hearts Day has become very important to HERO‘s annual fundraising calendar. It is our second largest fundraising campaign next to HERO‘s Annual Bash, which is held every spring. The dollars raised during Giving Hearts Day have a direct impact on HERO‘s waived fee program. Clients who are dealing with financial hardship can apply to HERO‘s waived fee program and receive medically necessary items for free. HERO waived over $116,000 for local individuals and agencies last year, and we are on track to exceed that number this year. Giving Hearts Day fundraising dollars help us offset the cost of this program and help HERO to continue to provide an important resource to our community.
What HERO Could Do With More Donations
More financial donations would allow HERO to expand our services and operations across the state and region. We would be able to reach more rural communities and provide affordable healthcare supplies to more individuals in need. We could be an even greater resource to our community and global missions by providing increased access to medical supplies. Healthcare costs are on the rise, and more and more people could benefit from the services HERO has to offer.
Help Beyond The Financial
Volunteering is a great way to help HERO. HERO’s volunteer base provides vital support for our day-to-day operations. We have seen a dip in volunteer activity in recent years, despite our increased growth in operations, which means fewer volunteers are taking on more work. We can’t thank our core volunteers enough for helping us every day. We are currently seeking a warehouse volunteer for donation sorting and sanitizing and a truck driver volunteer for deliveries and pick-ups, as well as an office volunteer for general clerical duties. Despite our best efforts to show our thanks, we just can’t begin to express the depths of our gratitude for our volunteers. They really are our heroes!
Looking back on HERO’s progression over the years is inspiring. HERO has experienced amazing transformations and growth. HERO added much-needed space to its retail center and warehouse last fall. In the last year, we’ve supplied over 50 global missions, served over 5,000 individuals and agencies in the Fargo-Moorhead area and saved close to 200,000 pounds of usable medical equipment from disposal in local landfills. HERO served over 90 counties in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota while distributing over 44,000 pieces of medical equipment. We’ve formed partnerships with 108 local and regional agencies that further assist individuals and families throughout the upper Midwest. These numbers continue to increase and reflect the very measurable impact that HERO is making locally, globally and environmentally.
- $1,000 could fund 10 wheelchairs, 40 shower chairs or 30 rollator walkers
More Health & Wellness Organizations in the FM Area
“Hope Blooms repurposes donated flowers and rearranges them into beautiful bedside bouquets so that those who need it most in our community feel this sense of inclusion […] We have delivered nearly 6,000 bouquets to community members in need.” – Kelly Krenzel, Founder
“Lend A Hand Up was the FIRST Giving Hearts Day participating charity! The launch of Lend A Hand Up in February 2008 coincided with the first Giving Hearts Day, providing a dynamic opportunity to introduce this new program to the community and engage support.” – Jeana Peinovich, Director
“We need volunteers to help with social media, website, events and hobbies/interests. People with rental properties for sober housing. Employers willing to hire those with felonies.” – Jann Johnson, Executive Director
“While serving at the first ever ND Mission of Mercy (free 2-day dental clinic) in Bismarck, a patient donated $10. With the biggest smile on her face and tears rolling down her face, she said how much the free dental care meant to her and that she wanted to support this event so we could do it again for others.” – Michael J Little, Executive Director
“One study shows that 37 percent of youth who have a mental illness will drop out of school. This is the highest dropout rate of any disability group. We want to serve these kids better and get them to a counselor sooner.” – Kris Fraser
“Giving Hearts Day gives our community the opportunity to understand the charitable nature of the YMCA by providing us broad exposure. One-third of our fundraising is completed on this day.” – Steve Smith, President
“When [Zach’s] school found out we were doing a Teddy Bear Drive for sick kids, they rallied and donated hundreds, many with personalized messages, sharing of stories and heartfelt wishes. Kids want to be involved too.” – Ellen Rummel
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