Project MEND’s 30-year mission to reuse medical equipment still growing

‘We serve more and more and more” Project MEND CEO says

SAN ANTONIO – Settled into its new 16,000-square-foot facility in the Medical Center area, Project MEND’s big move in January 2022 couldn’t have come at a better time, said Cathy Valdez, the nonprofit’s CEO.

“We just serve more and more and more,” Valdez said. “The number increases, the need increases.” By 12% over the past two years, said Kristy Walston, Project MEND chief development officer.

Given what it’s seen so far, Walston said Project MEND projects this year it will provide 2,100 clients with 5,000 pieces of donated medical equipment of all types and sizes for reuse by children, adults and veterans.

Walston said Project MEND is the largest of its kind in Texas, and the only one with a state licensed sanitation system for each piece of equipment before it leaves the building.

“It’s such a blessing,” said Ricarrda Alfaro Munoz, whose mother and grandmother each have medical equipment made possible by Project MEND.

Instead of leaving unused medical equipment in a closet or the garage, Munoz said, “There’s people that really need it.”

Not only did the walker and motorized wheelchair or scooter change her mother’s quality of life, Munoz said it improved her outlook on life.

“I could hop on and off the bus and get some things done that I hadn’t done for a year,” Nadal said. “They’re remarkable.”

Instead of paying for expensive medical equipment that may or may not be covered by insurance, Valdez said Project MEND only has a $20 annual membership fee.

Valdez said once enrolled, Project MEND has a record of someone who will need medical equipment now or in the future.

All that is required, said Valdez, is a prescription from a medical professional.

“We need that person to tell us medically what is it that they need,” Valdez said.

A large room is jammed with wheelchairs, walkers and more that are practically stacked to the ceiling to meet the growing demand.

Another area is dedicated to cleaning, repairing and refurbishing the equipment before it’s sanitized and ready for use.

Valdez said the building was designed to accommodate the nearly constant flow of items coming in and going out.

She said Project MEND prides itself in helping clients get adjusted to whatever equipment they’ll be using.

“Our job is to make people happy, and that’s what we do,” said Carlos Gomez, an inventory specialist. “If someone’s in need and needs a little assistance, we’re there for everyone.”

KSAT Community will be hosting a phone bank on July 20 to raise money for medical equipment items.

Project MEND will be accepting gently used medical equipment during their Gear Up for Mobility- A medical equipment donation drive from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 22 at the Wonderland of Americas (4522 Fredericksburg Road, near Hobby Lobby).

About the Authors

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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