I can’t remember what my sisters and I did with my mother’s wheelchair, after she died. Or any of the other medical gear, like the walker, cane and bathtub seat she used in the final months of her life.
I do know we did not donate it to Wheel It Forward. We did not know about that fantastic non-profit then.
Too many people still don’t.
That’s a shame. The average piece of “durable medical equipment” — those items mentioned above, along with hospital beds, knee scooters, toilet rests, crutches and more — is used for only 4 months.
Sometimes it’s donated to an organization, along with everything else in a cleaned-out home.
Sometimes it’s stuffed in a closet. Sometimes it’s discarded.
Someone else could always use it.
Elliot Sloyer is on a mission to connect that equipment with people who need it. Retired now after co-founding and managing 2 hedge funds and an internet start-up — plus writing 2 children’s books, and biking across the US with son, he’s one of Wheel It Forward’s 100 volunteers.
The Stamford-based group had its genesis when Sloyer chaperoned an 8th grade trip to Israel, and visited Yad Sarah. Run by 6,000 people, it’s a “lending library” of durable medical equipment for all Israelis: rich and poor, young and old, Jewish, Muslim and Christian.
When someone needs something, they get it by the end of the day. When they’re done, they return it. What could be simpler?
Sloyer loved the idea. But back in the US, he found nothing similar here. Some groups were trying to collect and lend “DME,” but it was haphazard at best. Others — like the Westport Woman’s Club — had to curtail their programs, due to insurance and liability concerns.
He used his entrepreneurial background to start Wheel It Forward. It’s become one of the most important — yet still little-known — organizations in Fairfield County.
“This changes lives immediately,” Sloyer says. With a wheelchair or walker, people become mobile. Their quality of life improves instantly.
That’s not the only benefit. Sloyer notes the relief felt by people who desperately need, but can’t afford, medical equipment. (Medicare does not pay for shower safety items, for example. But a $50 seat can prevent someone from falling — and incurring costs for an ambulance ride, surgery, rehab and everything else.)
“The return on investment is huge,” he notes.
And Wheel It Forward is green. Durable medical equipment stays out of landfill. Not to mention saving all the mining, packaging and shipping that goes along with manufacturing more items.
The group’s “lending library” of DME is open to everyone. But unlike a library of books — where 30% of the inventory is often out — 70% of Wheel It Forward’s 2,500-item inventory is usually in use.
Some of that use comes thanks to the Westport Senior Center. Director Sue Pfister and her staff make frequent referrals.
She’s made just as many calls to them for people with items they (or their relatives) no longer need. Wheel It Forward does pickup and delivery, on request.
Wheel It Forward thrives because it’s needed, because people volunteer, and through financial contributions. To learn more — including how to borrow or donate equipment, volunteer or give funds — click here.