By Karl Klooster • Staff Writer • 

Making getting better better

At the end of last May, my wife, Regina, fell down the stairs at home. She suffered grievous injuries, including a shattered pelvis.

After spending months recuperating from a complex repair operation, she had to undergo a second operation to replace a damaged hip joint. The process has now stretched out for a good 10 months, and it will probably take a couple more before she is once again walking fairly normally, with only a minimum of discomfort.

During this difficult time, she recounted her experiences in a poignant personal essay titled, “The Drama of Trauma.” And that drama extended to staggering expense that would destroy anyone who wasn’t insured.

Over the course of those months, she needed an electrically powered hospital bed, as well as a bedside tray table, a wheelchair, a walker, a four-wheel rolling walker, a cane, a bath bench and a toilet riser with support arms.

Our insurance covered the bed, but only until the end of 2012. For reasons we were unable to comprehend, it covered none of the other necessary equipment.

We were facing the prospect of having to pay all of it out of own own pocket. Then I was told about a medical device program run by the McMinnville Lions Club.

Thanks to the Lions, everything we required, could, in essence, be borrowed at no charge for as long as it was needed. “That’s our policy,” affirmed Bill Nourse, the McMinnville service club’s membership chairman.

And that kind of mandate is shared by Lions Club chapters across the country and around the world.

In its vision statement, the Lions Club makes this commitment: “To be the global leader in community and humanitarian service,” and, “To empower volunteers to serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding.”

Taking the possibilities for community service to heart, optician Jerry Wolf joined the McMinnville Lions in 1984, the same year he opened his optical shop on Highway 99W.

Before Izzy’s moved in next door and the big strip mall was built across the street, Jerry’s Optical Shoppe was a fixture on 99W. And local people were coming there not only for new eyewear.

“I had been a member of the Lions less than a year when I attended a meeting of the King City Lions Club,” Wolf said. “Because of all the retired folks there, they had come up with just such a program.

“What the club did at first was to swap stuff around among one another. But the program became so popular, they went out and drummed up more donations. They got the word out and it worked.”

He said, “I decided the same thing could work for us, so I proposed the idea to the club. Of course, I ended up volunteering my shop as a place where people could come and pick up what they needed.”

As the club got behind the program, and items started rolling in, the Lions arranged with Dean Klaus to rent a couple of storage units at his complex on Lafayette Avenue.

“Dean has given us a very good deal,” Wolf said. “We don’t charge for the use of our devices, but we do accept donations. With what we get every year, the program costs are more than covered.”

Jerry produced a spiral notebook separated into sections for different items. Just three months into 2013, the tally of devices and recipients already fills several pages.

A rough count gave me the following totals: walkers, 110; wheelchairs, 50; shower chairs, 45; commodes, 35; crutches, 25; toilet risers, 25; canes, 15; other kinds of items, 20.

Wolf emphasized, “If you have undergone incapacitating surgery of any kind, or suffer from any other debilitating health problem, the Lions medical device program is there to assist you.

“Nurses and PT people who make home visits frequently come to the shop. They check to find out what’s available. We get it ready for them, and they pick it up and take it to their patients.”

Nourse said a couple of other Lions assist Wolf with day-to-day management of the program.

“If Jerry’s not available, or someone can’t get to the shop, John Reppeto and Fred Kretz help out by delivering items or picking up donated ones,” he said. “We’re really happy that we’re able to serve so many local people.”

The program has been in place for 28 years now, with demand as high as ever.

“We love it,’ Nourse said. “Everyone seems very appreciative.

Wolf said, “We get it all back, plus more in some cases. A walker will be returned with a tray attachment someone has bought and added to it. A broken tray table will be repaired.

“People insist on paying us, and we tell them if they want to give something, it will be gladly accepted as a donation to the club and the program.”

Nourse said Wolf is the key to making it work.

“If it weren’t for Jerry, we wouldn’t be able to have the program,” he said. “The key to its success is his shop.”

And that’s what I found out while OUT and ABOUT — experiencing first hand how the McMinnville Lions Club, through Jerry’s Optical Shoppe, helps make getting better a good bit better.

Karl Klooster can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 503-687-1227.

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