One woman’s clutter is another’s freedom

Freedom in WheelchairOne of my clients recently lost her mother after a long illness. I am helping her organize and declutter her basement. Among the items she chose to let go of was a supply of home health equipment her mother used to be mobile and comfortable including a folding walker, a shower seat and an orthopedic boot. It gave my client great pleasure to learn about a place where she could donate these items so they could be used by someone else who otherwise couldn’t afford to pay for them. It’s called Home CARES.

Home CARES is a small organization that makes a big impact.

Every week in the counties of  Marin, Oakland, Sonoma and San Francisco, in Northern California, volunteers gather at their sites to accept donations of durable medical equipment and supplies. The organization operates on a shoestring budget. No fancy storefront, the Oakland site for example is located in an underground parking lot and consists of a folding table a few chairs and a walk in closet stuffed, yet organized, to the rafters with everything from pill boxes to wheelchairs.

Items are made available at no cost to people who need them.  I know this for sure because when my husband had shoulder surgery last year he was in need of a device called an “Ice Man.”

Ice Man

Ice Man

Our insurance provider would not cover the cost of this simple device which looks like a small picnic cooler with a power cord.  When used correctly, it circulates ice-cold water through an attached tube and then up into a series of pads that are gently strapped to your body, in my husband’s case, his shoulder.

Having the Ice Man made a huge difference in his pain management as well as his recovery. What did it cost us to get it? Nothing.  We borrowed it for six months and when my husband was fully recovered, I brought it back.

When I told my client about Home CARES and how her mother’s medical equipment could benefit someone else, perhaps another senior, or someone with a disability, she was more than happy to donate them. Today I brought in those items, along with a three-tiered mesh document file I happened to have in my trunk, which went into use immediately to hold the few document clipboards the site keeps to track donations.

The cheerful volunteer nurse who staffs the Oakland site is often there with her teen age son and other volunteers, mostly seniors who, despite the chilly air of the unheated parking lot, really seem to enjoy their work. It is “grassroots” at its best.

When you visit the Home CARES website, be sure to read the article written by Dr. Kate Scannell, a physician and specialist in medical ethics who discovered Home CARES through a colleague.  (By coincidence I used to work with Dr. Scannell when I was a project manager for a large health care organization in Oakland.)

Dr. Scannell captures the essential goodness and relevancy of an organization like Home CARES.  She writes, “In these days of fractious and tedious debates about health care reform, it’s refreshing to see what can be joyfully accomplished by community visionaries trying to tackle some piece of the enormous American health care debacle. It is reinvigorating to witness the efficiency with which medical problems can be solved, lives are made better, health care costs are conserved, and the environment is protected. Sometimes a small closet contains an entire and amazing world.”

I could not have said it better.

If you live in Northern California or want to support Home CARES, a 501c3 tax deductible organization, visit their website at or go to the resources page of my website at LET’S MAKE ROOM, to locate a link to Home CARES.

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