The Care Closet Story
The Care Closet has a long history, starting when Vashon Island Fire and Rescue had such a closet about ten years ago. When that Closet program closed, many noted its absence. In 2012, the Vashon Home Care Network, a coalition of private caregivers, started collecting and lending donated items helpful during a period of convalescence, ranging from commodes and shower chairs to walkers and personal care products. The items were stored at Island Funeral Service. In 2017, the Vashon Lutheran Church generously donated space for storage of Care Closet items in a room that sees much action as donated items recycle in and out to families and individuals. They also have given the Vashon Care Network permission to erect two storage barns for the Care Closet inventory and have generously supported our efforts financially as well.
Our growing aging population (Vashon median age is 52.3 with 36% aged 60 and over), the demise of skilled nursing at VCC and more families not able to afford specialized services, all contribute to an expanding need for medical supplies, equipment and care at home. In response to almost daily requests for experienced caregivers and equipment and supplies, the Vashon Care Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was founded in November 2018. The mission is to provide support to Islanders through coordination and distribution of physical resources and networking with community services and individuals. The Care Closet has been adopted as one of the projects of the Network. As the Closet has steadily grown, gaining volunteers, donors and requests, we have expanded our inventory of medical equipment and personal hygiene supplies.
The Care Network receives at least 100 calls per month, between individuals looking for caregiving support and those needing care closet items. Examples of free, donated items given away include gait belts, commodes, shower chairs, crutches, wheelchairs, walkers, knee scooters, incontinent supplies and hospital beds. Providence Home Health Clinicians contact the Network weekly to help clients in need of supplies as they are recovering from some type of medical setback or injury. It is worth noting that individuals often need equipment quickly and can’t get off-Island to secure what they need.
Through the Care Closet, the Vashon Care Network enables families to donate and recycle equipment and supplies after it is no longer needed. Fueled by the solid communication and good will of Island caregivers, friends, faith groups and in partnership with other nonprofits, we strive to meet the great majority of needs of low-income, isolated individuals and families.
Written by Carol Spangler