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Helpers Among Us — Freemasons give out free medical equipment

Bob MacIntosh, right, accepts a returned walker from a client. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/JOYCE WESTNER

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On a damp and sultry Saturday, Hillcrest Parkway resident Bob MacIntosh was standing outside a Cummings Park building, handing out medical equipment on behalf of the Woburn Freemasons. 

The service started years ago as a way to help folks recovering from injuries, operations and hospital stays. 

Volunteers load a hospital bed for Tina Ghikas' mother. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/JOYCE WESTNER

The event is a beehive of activity, as cars pull up in a line and tell the volunteers what they’ve come for. Danvers resident Tina Ghikas was there to pick up a hospital bed, a hoist, and various other things for her 92-year-old mother, who’s being released from a Stoneham nursing home. 

MacIntosh joined the Masons 14 years ago, and said, “Even during the pandemic we stayed open, but we developed a new system. Clients used to come inside, but we changed it so now they drive up and we bring items outside.”

MacIntosh explains why he’s doing this. 

“When you see people drive away in tears after getting things they desperately need but can’t afford, it hits home,” he says, adding when clients bring back items after recovering from a joint replacement, “I make them get out of their car and dance a jig!”

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He points out that Masonry’s number one tenet is charity. On this particular Saturday he’s also receiving items that clients are returning. 

“Donations are accepted, not only equipment but funds to rent or buy new equipment,” MacIntosh says. “And the Cummings folks not only gave us a grant, but also an incredible rate on the rent. We get money from other lodges, although ours is the biggest.”

Shower stools and canes are available. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/JOYCE WESTNER

And the “stuff?” 

“We have wheelchairs, rollators, ice machines, tub seats, commodes, bed rails, adult diapers, and hospital beds,” he says. 

Anyone can pull up from 9 a.m. to noon, each Saturday, but appointments are needed to get a hospital bed.

“There’s no time limit,” MacIntosh says. “Someone just returned an item that they’d borrowed when we used to be in Malden [10 years ago]. We also have a network of folks who grab stuff from the trash. And the Jenks Center donates items people give them.”

Crutches and adult diapers at the Masons' Loan Program. WINCHESTER NEWS STAFF PHOTO/JOYCE WESTNER

Three times, MacIntosh says, they made arrangements to ship truckloads of equipment to areas with natural disasters, such as Mexico and California after they had floods and Kentucky and Tennessee after tornadoes. 

“We had to hire an 18-wheeler,” he adds.

“We even sent tons of stuff to Ukraine,” through a local woman who ships things over there.  Winchester resident Bonnie Jean Butler says she’s grateful that they donated equipment to her organization Protect Global Children which she sent to Ukraine. “My dad was a mason for over 70 years, and my brother-in-law’s been one for 30.” More information can be found at https://smd-help.org/.

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