This Veterans Day, take a moment and consider what you might recycle to benefit veterans. As it turns out, plenty of veterans organizations take donations of used items for veterans who need them. Clothing and furniture are widely accepted by the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) chapters throughout the country, the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) and other veterans groups, and donating to them is a great way to give your old stuff new life.
Something many people may not have considered, though, is donating durable medical equipment such as used wheelchairs, hospital beds, scooters or walkers. One DAV chapter in Minnesota has developed the Donor Connect Program, which connects people who have used medical equipment with veterans who need those items. These medical devices help disabled veterans live on their own and function more independently.
Between January and September of this year, the program matched over 260 pieces of durable medical equipment with veterans in need, according to Gerry Falkowski, the program’s coordinator.
“We have a network of well over 900 contacts throughout the state of Minnesota, and every week I send out a newsletter to my network with what equipment I have available on my donation list. People look at that and call,” Falkowski told Earth911. Donor Connect’s network includes a variety of people and organizations including nursing homes and state health care providers who can help disperse the equipment.
The program began two years ago as an informal way to serve World War II and Vietnam War veterans. Some veterans rely on donations because they cannot obtain the equipment they need through other avenues. “It’s basically that era of veterans that for whatever reason often aren’t able to get a wheelchair through Medicare or their VA benefits. So then they come to me,” Falkowski said.
Since the program’s inception, it has grown and become more formalized with a database and larger network. Currently, the only other state with a similar program is Kentucky, though the Donor Connect Program hopes to expand and either become a national initiative or be replicated in other states, Falkowski said.
“In the last few weeks, I have gotten calls from as far away as New Jersey, Florida, California. This made me realize we need to take the program to the next level,” Falkowski said.
The Donor Connect Program’s fastest moving items are hospital beds, electric scooters and power wheelchairs, but they also provide manual wheelchairs, shower chairs, walkers and lifts. A complete list of accepted items can be found at their website.
If you live in Minnesota and have durable medical equipment you’d like to donate, contact the Donor Connect Program. If you live outside of Minnesota, check with your local veterans organizations. The Paralyzed Veterans of America chapter in Phoenix, Ariz., for example, tries to lend equipment to veterans in need until those veterans can find alternatives, while the local DAV chapter will accept donations of furniture and househould items. To find your local chapter, visit the DAV’s national website.