“What do you do with a wheelchair you needed for a short time without putting it on the curb?” Shannon Bednarova, director of marketing and community relations for Orthopaedic & Spine Center (OSC) asks of her dream to found Embrace Foundation 501(c)(3) (EF).
Bednarova earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Virginia Commonwealth University. After graduation, she worked for CIGNA in the healthcare field and found contentment working with physicians. That’s why when OSC was searching for its first marketing representative, she joined the practice.
“I love medicine, helping people and learning and talking about things I believe in,” she says.
While recovering from a boating accident, Bednarova researched a place to receive donations of durable medical equipment (DME) she would collect. She called Samaritan’s Purse.
“I told them we had gently-used equipment we give to our patients for a short time,” she says. “You have your arm in a sling after shoulder surgery, then have nothing to do with the apparatus after healing.”
Samaritan’s Purse agreed to work with EF. Bednarova presented her idea for the foundation to OSC doctors. They supported the project and started talking about it with their patients.
Early in EF’s operations, the Ukraine conflict ensued and EF supported Samaritan’s Purse’s effort to provide medical relief there. “Things blew up, leading us to add surgical clothes and other med supplies, including every kind of sealed and unused bandages,” Bednarova says. The foundation also collects and sends toys, games, school supplies, clothing and blankets because many Ukrainians in need lost everything.
Eventually, Samaritan’s Purse couldn’t handle any more DME. Bednarova called Mercy Ships and other places to tell them about the items for donations they didn’t want to go to waste. “We were told that the next time they had an orthopaedic ship, they would take DME from EF.
Crossing All Borders Ministry, operated by Joeth Strickland out of North Carolina, came to Bednarova’s attention and wanted goods from EF. “They brought trucks and collected half of what was in our storage room,” Bednarova says. “Crossing All Borders distributes through pastors.” Strickland is also OrthoForum’s strategic director and wants to connect EF with orthopaedic groups nationwide.
Crossing All Borders sends donations with signs to inform direct recipients that they were donated by EF from people with love in Newport News. Recently, a truck from a U.S.-based Ukrainian church in Kentucky took EF’s donations heading to Ukraine after being sorted and sterilized.
Bednarova makes presentations and talks to individuals about the foundation. She also personally picks up donations. Laura Nopper is her marketing assistant. Riya Arora, a Christopher Newport University graduate and marketing intern at OSC, itemizes donation records for accounting purposes.
So far, EF has sent donations and hospital beds to Ukraine and Haiti. Crossing All Borders Ministry plans to help out in Zambia and the Congo. EF has countless volunteers who donate, inventory, transport items and sit on its board.
Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group’s Peninsula Cosmetic and Reconstructive Surgery (in Hampton) donates surgical supplies to EF. People send supplies from all over the country. Sometimes Scottish Rite Fraternity donates DME, and First Advantage hosts an annual donations drive. Many donations come from medical facility overstock and change-of-vendor occurrences. EF helps locals through referrals from organizations such as Personal Touch Home Care, Inc. Embrace also donates through Roanoke-based FREE Foundation of Virginia.
Jada Spiceland, certified occupational therapy assistant with Personal Touch, says. “Insurance companies don’t often cover DME for our low income patients. I email Shannon and EF provides DME for these patients.
Dr. Jeffrey Carlson, OSC’s president and managing partner, has been a believer and one of EF’s biggest cheerleaders. “We use supplies for a short time, such as braces, walkers, crutches, canes and hospital beds,” he says. “Now we can upcycle them. People can drop these items at our office to be used all over the world where people don’t have anything.”
In 2022, Marilyn Gardner’s daughter had surgery and needed a medical boot. That’s how she met Bednarova and now volunteers by cataloging all donations. “I asked Shannon if she needed help,” Gardner says. “Marilyn is vital, as EF has grown from $518,000 in donations to more than $1 million today,” Bednarova says.
EF has a dropbox at OSC’s main office where people can leave donations. “Sometimes I go down there and there are three wheelchairs, two bedside commodes or a spine stimulator worth $6,000,” Bednarova says. “Sometimes there are crutches and all kinds of splints.”
Bednarova opens the donation center at 580 City Center Boulevard and meets donors at the back side of the building with their contributions. She is always available if someone has a large donation.
“I would love to get to the point where we could let donors know where their wheelchair went and who it helped,” Bednarova says of future dreams.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 250 Nat Turner Blvd., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Shannon Bednarova