An annual Christmas party has turned into a “perfect storm” of charitable intent for one local company.
Ideal Home Care raised over $13,000 for the Medical Equipment Assistance Program, or MEAP, this year. MEAP is a nonprofit that lends medical equipment like hospital beds, wheelchairs and walkers to patients in need.
MEAP founder Dan Kerkstra started the program in 2007. Before retiring, he had worked as a deliveryman at a company that sold the kind of equipment he now lends out. He said during his time there, brand new medical equipment was often thrown out due to strict regulations.
 “I said ‘There’s people who can’t afford these items, and I’m throwing them in the dumpster?’,” Kerkstra said. “I realized there was a need.”
Kerkstra and his daughter buy, fix, maintain and keep track of thousands of boots, beds, rollators, walkers, and other equipment. This year, MEAP leant out 1,769 items and received 2,730 new ones.  The Ardmore-based nonprofit works with healthcare providers in Carter, Love, Murray, Johnston and Marshall counties.
“There’s no one that fixes anything,” Kerkstra said. “If grandma’s lift chair breaks, there’s no one who fixes them. When I worked at the company, they knew I’d at least look. So when people have a problem, who do they call? Ghostbusters. But I don’t mind doing it.”
Ideal CFO Jacob Tynes said the program has been indispensable to the patients his company cares for.
“It’s been a gift from God,” Tynes said. “I can’t remember how much worse it actually was before patients were able to access the equipment they need at the time it is most needed. It’s stifling when you’re assessing their needs and our nurses are supposed to go out into the community and find whatever resources are available. For years, our ‘resource’ was just to beg.”
Tynes said there are countless barriers that could stand between a patient and equipment.
“They give them this laundry list of medical devices they’ll need,” Tynes said. “In the home health setting, our patients are by definition homebound. Accessing those devices is difficult.”
For patients on Medicare, requesting the equipment can take weeks or even months, and most can’t afford out-of-pocket costs for something like a wheelchair.
“They’re not always able to find that piece of equipment, or can’t afford that piece of equipment or can’t get all of their physicians and everything in line so they can get qualified for it,” Tynes said. “It can be really time consuming.”
Tynes said nurses who work at another branch brought up the idea of a fundraiser for MEAP in 2015. Tynes’ brother-in-law Gregory Taylor jumped in to play the role of auctioneer, watching Youtube videos to learn the part.
Ideal Home Care purchased gifts ranging from gift cards to an outdoor grill or an iPad, spending roughly $2,250 on auction items. Employees can either purchase items upfront or pay for them with a payroll deduction.
“They knock it out of the park,” Tynes said. “While it does cost more money than going to Walmart or Amazon or something, it goes to a good cause. It has culminated into a perfect storm of fundraising.”
Tynes said the 100-or-so party attendees raised about $7,000 last year.
“It’s rare to find a group of people who have that kind of passion to raise money for this one organization,” Tynes said. “They don’t help our individual employees. They help the patients that we serve every day.”
Kerkstra said the Ideal fundraiser has been a big help to MEAP.
“They have been super to work with,” Kerkstra said. “They’ve always been on board. They have really come through. We got cut back a little bit with the other agencies, but this one came through and that’s going to help.”