by Allen Martin and Jen Mistrot
NAPA (KPIX 5) -- On a recent sunny morning in Napa, occupational Therapist Robin Stearn quizzed her neighbor Rich Myers about medical supplies he may need. Stearn wanted to know if Myers had a walker at home, since he's got some mobility concerns. Myers said he understands why she asked.
"My wife and I are both handicapped," explained Myers. "We are both on breathing machines."
The 74-year-old Napa resident says he's lucky that he can afford most of his medical expenses. But now he's part of a growing number of people who donate gently used or new medical supplies to Yvonne Baginski, a Napa resident who operates a donation center at her home.
"It's expensive if you have to pay for that stuff yourself," acknowledged Myers. "We bring (unused or gently used medical supplies) over here and leave (them), brand new stuff and you don't want to throw it away."
Baginski opened the donation hub at her home more than a decade ago after seeing gently used and even new medical equipment being thrown in the trash.
"The amount of waste in the medical supply system absolutely shocked me," said Baginski. "And the amount of stuff I saw being thrown out, brand new stuff, things that people could reuse."
Baginski's front porch is quite often packed with everything from wound care supplies to walkers, all donated and all free for the taking by anyone who needs it, from families whose loved ones are ill or recovering from illness to caregivers, like occupational Therapist Robin Stearn.
"So a lot of people cannot afford to go out and buy things and I will say, 'Go over to Yvonne's front porch, and you need this and this and this,' "said Stearn. "And otherwise how would they go home? And be safe? If they didn't have access to this equipment?"
Seeing the need for medical equipment and supplies inspired Baginski to create "SHARE THE CARE NAPA VALLEY" in 2014. In 2017, it became a nonprofit. Now, more than 1,200 people have been helped with things like home visits, light house cleaning, dental care and eyeglasses. Myers is impressed by Baginski's generous spirit.
"This is wonderful," said Myers. "I know she doesn't like to be called an Angel, but to a lot of people she is."
Baginski says she's inspired by those she's helping.
"It feels good because it's community," said Baginski. "It's building relationships. I've gotten to know so many people."
So for helping others gain access to the care and medical equipment they might otherwise have to do without, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Yvonne Baginski.
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