I am somewhat of an idealist, so walking into a shop that is set up to serve was more than refreshing. I had first heard about Rich and Ashlee Lindquist a couple years ago when they made a buzz on social media about their shop that provided medical equipment. The catch with these folks is that they provide their goods and services for free.
I vaguely remember a line from an Economics 101 class – “there are no free lunches.” In this case, that still holds true, but the cost of this is simply service. What the Lindquists are doing is creating a community of compassion and a place of service, while providing much needed medical equipment, free of charge, to anyone who walks in, in need.
I always wonder what motivates people, and after spending part of an afternoon with this couple, I realized their journey led them to this place. Their introduction included the statement, “Good people are worth their weight in gold – find something for them to do.” Rich, the founder and president of North Beach Medical Equipment has an enviable ability to discover purpose; whether this is found in discarded trash, broken people, or old and possibly unusable medical equipment. His wife, Ashlee, supports him in this endeavor and serves on the board.
There are a few key points in life where I have had to be grossly aware of the suddenness of illness or injury. When a loved one is injured or dying, the task of how to help them is daunting. Looking at medical equipment can be a sign that loss is coming and not a reality we may want to embrace. It is certainly something many of us haven’t had to spend much time thinking about. When the time comes though, searching for resources can be incredibly difficult and expensive on top of the emotional process of being a sudden caregiver.
Rich and Ashlee serve this need. They make no money for their work. Their organization survives entirely from donations. Their marketing is a mix of social media, word of mouth, and local radio spots and print pieces. They have no funding, and each month, they are tasked with raising enough to cover their operating costs for the next month. Grants are not an option for them until they can raise the $900 needed to gain their 501(c)(3) non-profit status, with the help of expert counsel.
While the focus of North Beach Medical Equipment is, like the name implies, to serve those of the North Beach, there is a very strong understanding that anyone needing help will not be turned away. Everyone knows the value of hard work and I love to see philanthropic efforts. Seeing people helping people is an incredible example of humanity, but still, it is hard not to sit back and wonder why people would dedicate their lives wholly to this type of work and not expect anything in return. The story of Rich and Ashlee’s journey help clarify that.
As Rich and Ashlee’s story began to unfold, I recognized this same level of golden generosity coming from them. These were people who were giving what they didn’t have, and through their faith and determination to help others, have been able to continue to give.
Rich, Ashlee, and their daughter Hanna, who was 8 at the time, left on a trip traveling to eight western states and volunteered along the way. With a worn out truck and trailer, they landed in Ocean Shores where they acquired a 1969 bus, with plans to continue their trek. On December 28, 2010, their daughter died from a brain aneurism. Hannah was visiting family in Ellensburg and playing with cousins. She complained of a headache and went for a rest. Later, after 36 minutes of CPR, paramedics, life support, and an airlift to Seattle, her heart stopped.
Reflecting on the life with Hannah on the road, Rich says, “We had lived our faith – opposition, trials, and struggles. There is no wish I would have when she died – no regrets other than losing her.” In their travels, the warm hearted and accepting nature of their daughter served to teach them of the importance of helping others.
Back in Ocean Shores, Rich was working on getting the bus running and planning a return to the road when asked why they were planning on leaving to help people when they were already helping people here. Rich had been volunteering at his church doing a similar service as what he is doing now, but on a smaller scale. At that time, they decided to plant roots.
Through our afternoon, I found out Ashlee is legally blind. She lost her sight at the age of ten after surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor. She told me, “I’m not supposed to be here. You don’t see me.” I disagreed, “Oh, we see you – you’re supposed to be here.” She can’t drive. When you see them together, you will find her walking behind Rich so he can serve to guide her. Watching the two of them, I can’t help but think she is as much of a support to him and this endeavor as he is to her in life.
Through overcoming their trials, they have learned that not much is needed to live. Being on the road, they lived in desert communities with no hot water or electricity and an abundance of unique people who may be considered outcasts by society. Through meeting these people, personal walls were broken down. Cultural differences were accepted. The stark opposition of rich and poor living side by side was witnessed in the artist’s colony, “Slab City.”
The lessons they learned are that people are people. When they need help, they need help. They can help you. Different isn’t wrong. People are as friendly as you are. If you’re kind, most often people are kind back. According to Rich, this journey was “Necessary to become someone who cares and puts others first.”
The Lindquists have been serving the North Beach with this hard-earned outlook for the last five years. Just recently, they have moved to a storefront location in Ocean Shores. They provide what is not covered by insurance, or what cannot be acquired when you need it. The only requirement is a need for help. They have served children in electric wheelchairs, the elderly, and veterans.
In their shop, they give new and refurbished shower benches, walkers, knee braces, arm slings, back braces, crutches, commodes, two wheel walkers, elevated seats, shower chairs with handles, canes, walking casts, wheelchair cushions, depends, oxygen carts, forearm crutches, knee scooters, walkers, walking boots, and specialty wheelchairs.
They take volunteer service, from students, to those doing community service, to the elderly or disabled. While some may move slower, they still have the skills and experience needed to help. Because the Lindquists can only give what they have, they are in need of the following items: walkers with seats, shower chairs, monetary donations, and wheelchairs in good condition.
North Beach Medical Equipment
899 Point Brown Ave, Suite C in Ocean Shores
Monday – Friday, from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
“Life’s not as dark when you’re helping someone. Learn to listen.” Next time you drive by and see the sign that says “100% Off Sale,” consider stopping in for a little inspiration.