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'Marin Medical Equipment Recyclers' Shares Much-Needed Healthcare Items

SAN RAFAEL (KPIX 5) Mark Parker is looking for a wheelchair, but it's not for him. The San Rafael-based case worker is picking up gently-used medical equipment for low-income clients. And he's come to the right place: Marin Medical Equipment Recyclers or M.M.E.R. for short. The North Bay non-profit opens its doors to the public every Wednesday at its donated storage facility. Every piece of medical equipment the organization has is free to those who come asking. It's all donated and tax deductible. Parker says the free wheelchair he is picking up today will be a lifeline for his client.

"Wheel chairs are expensive. Canes are expensive. Shower chairs are expensive," explained Parker. "This is a really good resource."

M.M.E.R. was started nearly 20 years ago by avid recyclers Marilyn McConnell and Mack Staley as a way to give back to the community they love. Staley, a child of the Depression who learned early never to waste anything, says his inspiration came from a trip he took to the local dump.

"The truck in front of me had a nice wheel chair in the back of it. So when I got up to pay my 20 dollars I asked the girl, what happens to that wheel chair?'" recalled Staley. "And she says well if it's in the truck it goes in the dump. And I said, 'You're kidding!"

Retired nurse Marilyn McConnell's inspiration came from decades of working in the healthcare field.

"I can identify medical supplies better," explained McConnell. "Because I am a nurse and because I have used them."

Marine Medical Equipment Recyclers has been a huge success. Last year the organization gave away nearly 20,000 items total, both to individuals and other non-profits who take the excess equipment overseas. Donations mainly come from private individuals The service has been a huge benefit to Marin County residents like Katherine Hendricks, whose mom suffered a stroke.

"We are able to get all these wonderful items which otherwise cost so much," said Hendricks.

McConnell says Marin Medical Equipment Recyclers is an ad hock organization. She, Staley, and their army of dedicated volunteers have a very simple philosophy:

"You just come and ask for want you want," explained McConnell. "If we have it, you can have it."

M.M.E.R. is always looking for clean, gently used medical equipment as donations. The organization does not solicit cash, and will not accept anything broken or rusty. McConnell says they do give excess equipment to other non-profits who then distribute the items overseas. Marin Medical Equipment Recyclers operates under the non-profit ReCARES' 5013C.

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