Edmonds man gives helping hand for people with MS

EDMONDS — Bill Brayer for years has helped people with multiple sclerosis.

In 1998, Brayer and his wife, Carol, founded Multiple Sclerosis Helping Hands and Donor Closet in their home. The nonprofit, now located at 409 Howell Way, serves people who have multiple sclerosis and others with specific needs. The Donor Closet recycles used and new durable medical equipment and mobility equipment.

Brayer, 79, served as the president of the nonprofit for 14 years until October, when the Edmonds man resigned his board position.

“My term of office was coming up to the end and there were a lot of younger people in the organization that had good ideas and I felt it was time to let the organization grow with other people,” he said.

Brayer in 1987 was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease in which the immune system attacks the sheath that covers the nerves, sometimes leaving patients unable to walk or speak. Starting MS Helping Hands and Donor Closet was a way to help people with the disease, he said.

The nonprofit has recycled more than 180,000 items, including scooters, power chairs, lifts and other equipment, Brayer added.

“The Donor Closet is probably our claim to fame and there’s no other resource like it in the country,” he said.

People pay minimal donations for the medical and mobility equipment and that money goes toward operational costs for the nonprofit and to the MS Helping Hands Financial Assistance Fund. About $380,000 in grants have been awarded to people in the state with multiple sclerosis, Brayer said.

While serving on the MS Helping Hands board, Brayer spent up to 60 hours a week working on various multiple sclerosis projects. He has earned more than a dozen awards for his work. Among those awards are congressional recognition for outstanding and invaluable service to the community, the American Red Cross Adult Humanitarian Award, and the MS Foundation Outreach Leadership Award.

Brayer on Nov. 5 received further recognition for his work with a proclamation by the City of Edmonds. The proclamation, signed by Mayor Dave Earling, listed Brayer’s accomplishments and asked that Brayer receive thanks for his dedication and hard work for the cause.

“He has an amazing history with multiple sclerosis not only as a person who has the disease himself but the leadership he has shown has been recognized regionally and nationally,” Earling said. “He’s put together a wonderful program.”

Shortly after his diagnosis, Brayer began attending a support group for people with multiple sclerosis. For about 24 years, he and his wife were co-facilitators of the group that met at Edmonds United Methodist Church. They counseled people and the families of those with the disease and published a monthly newsletter, “The MS Help Informer.”

“It was one of the largest support groups in the country,” Brayer said. “Our mailing list was well over 400 when I resigned and we had 30 to 40 members coming to meetings for a while.”

Brayer said he appreciated the recognition from the city. Although he misses working with the approximately 30 volunteers at MS Helping Hands, Brayer added that he plans to continue to individually promote the nonprofit through his work as a state ambassador for the MS Foundation. He plans to continue advocating for services for people with multiple sclerosis after he takes some time to recover from recent heart surgery.

“I’ll remain active in advocating for more services for people with MS because there just isn’t enough,” he said. “But right now I’m going to worry about my health, take a break and just enjoy my life.”

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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