In 2015, Jodie Zelazny and Sara Scheetz began collecting durable medical equipment in their garages so they could help distribute it to people in the community who needed it but couldn’t afford it. They began getting a lot of donations, and soon, they moved to a 5×10 storage unit, thinking they could never fully fill it.
Just a year later, A Caring Closet became an official 501c3 and, soon after, they began operating out of a 2,500-square-foot warehouse. This past June, A Caring Closet moved to a new location at 2700 NE Andresen Road, Suite D4. They closed for a brief period of time during the move and reopened July 12. The organization mainly serves seniors, but they also partner with Randall Children’s Hospital to help pediatric patients with wheelchairs, hospital beds, walkers and much more at no cost.
“There is no requirement to utilize our program,” Zelazny said. “It is very simple. If someone comes in and sees something they need they just take it home with them right, then and there after signing a liability waiver.”
From July 2021 to December 2021, A Caring Closet served 6,124 people. As of mid-May of 2022, the organization had served more than 4,100 people. They primarily get their donations from the public, assisted living centers and adult family homes. Funding comes from monetary donations, fundraisers and grants. A Caring Closet also has established partnerships with the Greater Clark County Rotary Club, Share Vancouver and Battle Ground Health Care.
“A Caring Closet has been able to do so much because of this support,” Zelazny said.
When the pandemic hit, the organization shut down temporarily and they lost a lot of their volunteer base. They also had to cancel one of their primary fundraisers for the year, which impacted them financially in a huge way. But that didn’t stop them from helping people in the community.
“We would put together packages for adult family homes, where we included toilet paper, paper towels, gloves, sanitizer and tissues,” said Zelazny. “When items were being limited at the grocery stores, adult family homes were not able to have enough supplies to cover all their residents. We gave out over 200 care packages in Clark and Cowlitz counties. Another amazing project was our iPad project. We were given a grant through the Ed & Dollie Lynch Fund and were able to give out 125 iPads to skilled nursing facilities, assisted livings and adult family homes. This was to make sure that families were able to Zoom and stay connected during the pandemic. When loved ones were dying alone in facilities, these iPads were able to bring families a little closer together.”
Looking ahead, the team at A Caring Closet is excited about continuing to help people in need. Zelazny shared this simple story that showcases the “why” of what they do.
“‘Jennifer’ awoke paralyzed at age 42 due to a massive stroke,” Zelazny said. “When she first came in with a caregiver, she needed a better wheelchair. As the months passed, she transitioned from a wheelchair to a four-wheeled walker, and finally to a cane. It was wonderful to see her recovery first-hand knowing we had a small part in that recovery.”
To find out more about A Caring Closet, visit the organization’s website at http://www.acaringcloset.org/.