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Sunday, May 30, 2010

MS Donor Closet Helps the Needy

MSF Ambassador Bill Brayer had an idea that in a short ten years mushroomed from recycling one person's used items into one of the largest donor closets in the nation.

In 1999, Bill had been meeting weekly with a group of residents who had MS at a nearby care/rehab center when one of the MS residents passed away at an early age. Her parents asked Bill to help find a home for an electric power chair, a manual wheelchair, a power chair, an electric hospital bed and several other DME/ME (durable medical equipment and mobility equipment) items.

This event sparked an idea for Bill - a service that would gather donations of gently used or new DME/ME items and provides them to people in need. Within six months his new Donor Closet became a local-area-only charitable sister company to Bill’s existing nonprofit agency, MS Helping Hands (MSHH). A local newspaper article covering the story about this special resource helped to bring in additional DME/ME items and more volunteers.

With the media coverage sharing Bill’s dream with others, his “Closet” soon required twelve 10x20 storage units (2,400 square feet). Soon, he was leading a small army of volunteers that helped to clean and repair the items, and assist any disabled recipients. 

As requests grew, Bill discovered many would-be donors had no way to get the items to the Donor Closet. No obstacles allowed, Bill simply asked a volunteer with his own van to assist.

When the area’s community found out of the Closet’s need, they were gifted a vehicle by a private donor, and later, another by a grant from The Boeing Corporation.

Growing quite huge, the Closet's storage overhead required that they had to start requesting a nominal donation from recipients. However, any leftover financial donations (after covering the monthly operating costs of the Donor Closet) are transferred into a restricted Financial Assistance Grant Fund. The funds are then used to provide monetary help to people with multiple sclerosis who reside in the State of Washington.

Bill has one saying he often refers to: “We are here to help the needy, not the greedy!” He feels there should be a Donor Closet in every city, as the need is there and so are the unused items. All it takes is someone to get the ball rolling.

If anyone wants to take on this challenge, Bill has written a how-to guide to starting and maintaining an all-volunteer Donor Closet in your area.

You can email Bill Brayer at for a copy of the how-to guide in a Microsoft Word document. And if you are a Washington state resident, visit the MSHH Donor Closet at 409 Howell Way in downtown Edmonds, WA. 98020. Tel: (425) 712-1807. 

Information Source: The MS Foundation

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bill is an inspiration to us all! I want to start a "smaller" closet here. So far, four exchanges of otherwise donated to Goodwill items. This way my support group friends had FREE items they needed. This is often the problem. Bill has to charge a small fee (huge storage), but in our group we just told what we had and shared! Any level