OLEAN – Almost 40 years ago Reverend John Lounsbury and his wife Linore decided to store the medical supplies they had received from people who no longer needed them and to lend them to others.
The couple, who operate the Cornerstone Medical Loan Closet in Olean, announced that they could no longer keep up with the work involved and would shut down the nonprofit.
Linore Lounsbury said she started the program when she worked at the American Red Cross in 1981.
“We had things in the basement and a small garage,” she said of the donated medical supplies. “When John and I got together and got married, he said he would take over. He was interested in developing it as a ministry – he is 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 materials, she continued.
Over the decades the closet grew and eventually moved from the Lounsbury’s 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 was donated for the program in 2007, but needed upgrading to be occupied. It opened as a ministry about three years later, after volunteers from churches and community groups helped restore the building bit by bit.
During a busy year, the firm loaned various medical items, including hospital beds, wheelchairs, lift chairs and canes to 815 individuals, families and entities in the region. On average, however, the firm donated equipment to about 500 people per year in communities across New York State and Pennsylvania. Many could not afford the items, had no insurance or insurance that would not cover the cost of the equipment.
The closet has continued to operate over the years thanks to the dedication and hard work of John Lounsbury and a few longtime volunteers who have helped keep the building and answer the phones. The community also provided materials and monetary donations to maintain the solvency of the organization.
For his part, John Lounsbury, who continues to work professionally in the community, said the organization has become more difficult for him to manage over time. He noted that the pandemic had had some impact on operations, but was not the reason he decided to shut down.
“I’m just ready to quit,” he admitted, noting that the upkeep and upkeep of the building and the property, as well as the loan and maintenance of equipment, is very taxing.
With that in mind, he said he plans to donate all the equipment over the next few months.
“I’m going to have somebody there from 10am to 2pm on Thursdays and Saturdays, we’ll just give it away and when it’s gone I’ll shut it down,” he remarked.
Lounsbury said he would attempt to donate the building to another nonprofit, with the acquiring agency paying the legal fees involved.
“It is in good condition now,” he added in his comments on the building. “We’ve done a lot of work and a lot of service, but it’s got to a point where I don’t want to do it anymore.”
For more information about the organization or the building, call 379-8491.