OLEAN — It was close to 40 years ago when Rev. John Lounsbury and his wife, Linore, decided to store medical equipment they had received from people who no longer needed it and loan it out to others.
The couple, who operate the Cornerstone Medical Loan Closet in Olean, announced they no longer can keep up with the work involved and will close the nonprofit organization.
Linore Lounsbury said she started the program when she worked at the American Red Cross in 1981.
“We had things in the cellar and a little garage,” she said of the donated medical supplies. “When John and I got together and got married, he said he would take it over. He was interested in developing it as a ministry — he’s a nurse and was trained with all the equipment and how to use it.
“The goal was always to keep family members at home as long as possible” with the borrowed equipment, she continued.
Through the decades the closet grew and eventually moved from the Lounsburys’ former home in Portville to their church, Cornerstone Full Gospel, and later to a former restaurant on North Fourth Street.
The building at 920 N. Fourth had been donated for the program in 2007, but needed upgrades in order for it to be occupied. It opened as a ministry approximately three years later after volunteers from churches and community groups helped restore the building little by little.
During one busy year, the closet loaned out a variety of medical items, including hospital beds, wheelchairs, lift chairs and canes to 815 area individuals, families and entities. On average, however, the closet donated equipment to approximately 500 people a year in communities from New York state and Pennsylvania. Many couldn’t afford to purchase the items, had no insurance or insurance that wouldn’t cover the cost of the equipment.
The closet continued operating through the years thanks to the dedication and work provided by John Lounsbury and a few longtime volunteers who helped man the building and answer the phone. The community also provided equipment and monetary donations to keep the organization solvent.
For his part, John Lounsbury, who continues to work professionally in the community, said the organization has become more difficult for him to run with the passing of time. He noted the pandemic had some impact on the operations, but was not the reason he decided to close.
“I’m just ready to stop,” he admitted, noting the maintenance and upkeep of the building and property, as well as loaning and maintaining the equipment, is very trying.
With that in mind, he said he plans to give all of the equipment away over the next few months.
“I’m going to have someone there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays and Saturdays, we’ll be just giving it away and when it’s gone I’m closing it up,” he remarked.
Lounsbury said he will attempt to donate the building to another nonprofit, with the acquiring agency to pay for the legal fees involved.
“It’s in nice shape now,” he added in his comments on the building. “We did a lot of work and a lot of service, but I’ve come to that point where I don’t want to do it anymore.”
For more information on the organization or the building, call 379-8491.