By ANGYE MORRISON
The Caring Closet, which opened in January, got off to a slow start, but things are picking up, says Chandler Dennard, co-founder and CEO of the Rockin’ Out Alzheimer’s Disease Foundation, which runs the closet. The Caring Closet reopened in January of this year.
The closet is designed to assist those caring for individuals with dementia, and is located at the Outreach Center on Denmark Street. It’s stocked with hygiene items and educational materials.
Dennard said they thought things might take a while, but they expected the word of mouth to spread in about six weeks. It actually took more like nine weeks. The closet was around for many years, but then dormant for about three years. It was previously run by the Alzheimer’s Association, but when they gave ownership to another organization, it just didn’t work out, Dennard said.
“Any time you have an organizational change, it’s just tough. Then we got it back going,” he said. “By the time you get the word of mouth out, the first couple of weeks, we didn’t give out anything. But during one week earlier this month, there were about a half dozen people who received supplies. So things are starting to pick up.”
The closet is manned by local volunteers, who have come from the ROAD Foundation, as well as Synovus Bank and Willow Pond. But new volunteers are always welcome.
“Volunteers have to go through a bit of a training class on what we do,” Dennard said, adding that it’s mostly instruction on what it is they do through the Caring Closet, as well as the paperwork that is required.
For those caregivers who visit the closet, documentation of an official diagnosis is required. An initial visit is allowed, but as part of the visit, paperwork is given that will need to be completed by the doctor. After that, a caregiver can come to the closet for supplies once a month. No income verification is required.
Supplies at the closet include adult briefs and pull-ups in all sizes, wipes, exam gloves, barrier creams, bed pads and dry shampoo. They also provide information on dementia, and caregiving and support. Dennard says that is very important, because a lot of people don’t know the resources that are available to them.
“They don’t know what to do, because they have never faced this situation,” he said.
The package that each caregiver receives for the patient is considerable, Dennard said.
“The package that we give away, if you went to the store and bought it, it’s about $170 worth of stuff,” he added.
The closet is currently only open on Fridays, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dennard said they hope in the future, as the closet is utilized more, to add more days.
Dennard says the ongoing pandemic could impact people coming in to the closet, because caregivers are in direct contact with some of the community’s most vulnerable.
“But the need for those supplies is not going to go away. We still need the supplies donated to us, and we’ll be here to man it,” he said.
Supplies or monetary gifts can be donated by contacting Dennard or by going to the ROAD Foundation website, www.rockinoutalzheimers.org. Donors are encouraged to make the Caring Closet their preferred charity on Amazon Smile, where you can find their supplies wish list. Amazon ships the supplies directly to the closet, and donates 5 percent of the purchase to the ROAD Foundation.
Dennard says the need for such a service in Bulloch County and the surrounding area is great.
“If you look at our population and its average age, and the percentage of people that suffer from dementia, there’s a huge need for it,” he said. “I think the more people that know it’s here, the more resources we’re going to need, because I think we’ll have that many people coming in.”
Please note that appointments to visit the closet are required during the current pandemic. For more information or an appointment, contact Dennard at 912-536-9356 or Darron Burnette at 912-536-4133.