When Kelly Steitz ordered a walker for her daughter, who has cerebral palsy, her daughter refused to use it. The equipment sat in their home unused. Years later, Steitz conjured up the idea to start a website where parents of special needs children can check out equipment that they need free of charge. Since its 2010 launch, AbleCloset, a 501c3 non-profit organization, has served about 300 families per year. Wheelchairs, walkers, gait trainers, shower chairs and other equipment for special needs children fill AbleCloset’s Santa Clara warehouse located at 1815 Walsh Ave. (between San Tomas Expy. and Lafayette St.).
“The purpose of AbleCloset is to loan out equipment for two to six months either because you want to try something before you make a purchasing decision, or maybe you need to use something before your order comes in because it takes a long time to get equipment you ordered,” said Steitz, who founded AbleCloset with Julie and Todd Bursey. “Or if you have no insurance or no way of getting this equipment, you can borrow equipment and rotate through different pieces.”
Steitz added that people can come to the warehouse when it’s open to donate equipment that is in working condition. However, she doesn’t accept custom-fit items, such as like braces, hospital beds, power wheel chairs, or car seats.
“We’d like to expand to different locations; there are a lot of people like us who are trying to do what AbleCloset does,” Steitz said. “We’re wondering if we can build the technology to empower other people to reach more people in their community. Sometimes we’d have a mom who’s trying to do something like this out of her garage but she doesn’t have the technology to set this up to serve others. We want to help others set up their shops so they can serve kids more efficiently. We run everything off of Salesforce; that’s how we manage our inventory and our reservation system. We’ll try to simplify that for people who are not technical or don’t want to spend the effort on the backend side managing things.”
Steitz shared that AbleCloset’s clients come from all over California and about 50 percent of these clients are from Santa Clara County or San Mateo County.
“When people come in, they usually form a bond with the other clients that are there or with us,” she said. “They have a lot of questions that usually extend beyond just the equipment.”
Recently, Steitz set up a GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/equipment-for-kids-w-disabilities to raise $5,400 to purchase four new feeder seats.
“Once in a while we supplement our existing inventory with new pieces,” she said. “The Tomato [brand] feeder seat, pictured on the GoFundMe page, has been requested a lot lately. Some families couldn’t get one because they’re constantly in need. So that’s what we’re trying to purchase.”