Too costly to keep: Red Cross closing Gander equipment depot

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Gander's Red Cross depot staying put, for now

The Canadian Red Cross is closing the doors to its Gander depot and some volunteers worry about the future of the local program.

"Now we don't know where the equipment is going to be dropped off, we don't know it's going to be picked up," said Jean Dillon, a volunteer for more than 50 years.

The Health Equipment Loan Program, or HELP, operates out of a leased building on Roe Avenue. It's there that the Red Cross stores and rents out wheelchairs, crutches, and other aids to people in the central region.

The lease on the current space ends at the end of the month and the program will be moved to a smaller spot. The Red Cross said the decision was made because the space is too big for the program's current needs and will save some money.

Don't move the depot, says volunteers

Dillon told the Central Morning Show that when volunteers were told this week, they couldn't believe it. She said they also use the space for training and to rent out personal floatation safety devices in the summer.

"After lobbying so much to get a really nice building for this and using that building for different things as well, it was a real shock to come and say that 'sorry, no more, it's gone' as of the end of the month," said the volunteer.

Some equipment will be stored in a smaller location and the rest will be shipped over from the Canadian Red Cross offices in Grand Falls-Windsor. Dillon said many of the volunteers are over 70 and aren't able to unload equipment from trucks. 

She said a few people will give up volunteering.

Saving money

In a statement, Rhonda Kenney, the provincial director for Newfoundland and Labrador said closing the depot will save money.

"The service delivery model we envisage for Gander works well in a number of similar sized communities in Atlantic Canada and better aligns operating costs with revenues generated through donations and other means that are needed to support the program," said Kenney in a news release.

"This decision in no way reflects on the efforts of our Gander volunteers, whose sole motivation is helping others in their community, and we certainly hope to quickly finalize a cost-effective alternative that allows their tremendous work to continue uninterrupted."